L.A. Meyer,
Under the Jolly Roger
(Harcourt, 2005)

In Bloody Jack, homeless London waif Jacky Faber disguised herself as a boy to secure a berth on one of His Majesty's warships at the dawn of the 19th century. In the sequel, Curse of the Blue Tattoo, she paid the price of her deception by being enrolled against her will at a Boston academy for young -- and wealthy -- girls.

Now, Jacky Faber is back at sea. Under the Jolly Roger begins with Jacky's arrival back in London, having crossed the Atlantic in service to a whaling vessel of some renown. After a clever wink and nod to Moby Dick, author L.A. Meyer begins to unfold the next tumultuous chapter in Jacky's topsy-turvy life.

A misguided attempt to surprise her long-lost love leads to a serious misunderstanding, and Jacky -- disguised once again as a boy -- is pressed into service on another British vessel. This time she's sent to a ship blockading French ports, and the vile British captain -- who proves to be greedy, lustful and in ill health -- refuses to send her ashore. But Jacky is nothing if not resourceful, and she has a knack for making the right friends in the right places, and -- well, let's not spoil the surprise. The title of the book is enough to tell you she doesn't remain under proper British rule for long.

Under the Jolly Roger includes plenty of action at sea and intrigue on board, as well as the kind of heady, high-spirited character development that has proved a hallmark of Meyer's work. Jacky Faber is well on her way to painting her name in line with such famous (or infamous) lady sailors as Anne Bonney, Mary Read and Grace O'Malley, and literary naval heroes like Horatio Hornblower and Captain Jack Aubrey.

The only disappointment here is that the next Faber novel isn't due out for nearly a year. I hope Meyer has a barrel of inspiration and is able to keep this character alive and thriving for many books to come.

by Tom Knapp
21 January 2006

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