Pirate Smith Delaney finds himself atop a tall post in the midst of a tropical lagoon waiting for a particularly gruesome death to arrive in the form of savage mer-monkeys. Attempting to keep his thoughts from the flesh-hungry piranha in the waters around him, and the imminent arrival of the Onka Din Botlay – rippers of bone – Delaney casts his thoughts to and fro in hopes of finding a solution to his desperate predicament. Rather than discovering a clever means of escape, he is alternately drawn into examining his life to date and recalling a particularly engaging tale spun by a fellow pirate – Ham Drumbone – detailing the lives of several world-shaking figures in the kingdom of Nearing Vast. Delaney’s own life plays a small yet significant role in the histories of these persons, and the two trains of thought eventually converge upon the present.
Set in a fictional world somewhat reminiscent of the Elizabethan age, George Bryan Polivka’s Blaggard’s Moon is a prequel written after the conclusion of his Trophy Chase Trilogy. I found the premise of a Christian pirate novel irresistible, and the results immensely entertaining. It takes a certain amount of skill to convey authentic pirate language while refraining from outright blasphemy and cursing, yet Polvikka pulls it off. Both his narration and dialogue are lively – vivid, captivating and just plain fun. Indeed, Polivka’s work clearly places him amongst the top writers in Christian fantasy today.
Using the context of piracy to contrast righteous and corrupt behaviour, Polvikka casts Damrick Fellows as a man fiercely dedicated to ridding the world of evil, Conch Imbry as a ruthless, greedy and heartless pirate king, and the lovely Jenta Stillsmithers as the woman caught in a dangerous dance that is largely outside of her control. Though the main characters seem stereotypical, this trio of super-hero, villain, and damsel in distress are endowed with living, breathing three-dimensional fullness that etches their characters in the mind. The sharp contrast of choosing for God and choosing against Him in both these lives and that of others Delaney has known drive him to self-examination during his final hours.
The near exclusive use of Delaney’s recollections of Drumbone’s tale combined with discrete incidents from his own life result in a story that is taking place on a stage that nearly entirely exists in Delaney’s mind. An uncommon device in what is essentially an action novel, the alternating narrative viewpoints only add to the rush towards the present, where all three stories eventually meet. Lovers of boisterous sea battles need not worry; his reminiscences are filled with active language, fierce battles complete with nautical language and complex schemes hatched by merchants and pirates alike.
Though unfamiliar with Polivka’s established trilogy, I found Blaggard’s Moon an excellent stand-alone novel. However, I must admit my interest is now piqued and the continued adventures in the Kingdom of Nearing Vast now call to me with a sweet siren song. His fantastical blend of adventure, honour (or lack thereof), romance (chaste yet complex) and the high seas is nigh irresistible. I’m ready for seconds, thirds and fourths!