Vampirates: Demons of the Ocean


Author: Justin Somper

Publication: 2005, Little, Brown & Company

Pages: 330

Overall Rating:  bth_35_zps7a173504[1]                       

Rating for Action: bth_25_zps13f4f4eb[1]

Quantity of Action: bth_2-star-rating-1_zps4cdc0d23[1]

Age Category: 9-12

Brief Summary:  Conner and Grace Tempest are the newly orphaned children of the town lighthouse keeper in Crescent Moon Bay.  They’ve always been outsiders.  Their father left town for a time when he was young and returned a year later with a dead wife and two young babies in tow.   He raised them on strange tales, stories of adventure, and an odd sea shanty about the dreaded vampirates.  After he dies, the twins flee Crescent Moon Bay in his boat.  They’re wrecked in a storm and each is rescued by a different boat.  Conner is taken aboard by pirates and is soon training to become a full fledged pirate himself.  Grace, however, is rescued by the vampirates and finds herself in mortal danger.

Age of Main Character: 14

What I Liked the Most:  This is a fun, light hearted version of vampires and pirates.  It’s a swashbuckling romp, full of pirate raids, sword fighting, captured treasure, and vampires.  Now normally I like my stories dark, but I appreciate the fact that there’s a sunnier version available, and Somper does a great job of making it exciting to read.

I loved the fact that in Somper’s world, the pirates have gotten organized – almost like a union.  There’s a pirate academy where people can study to become officers aboard a pirate ship, the ocean is divided into sea lanes where each pirate ship has its own swath of territory, and the pirates’ goal when raiding a ship is to take its treasure with the least amount of bloodshed possible.  It’s certainly a different version of pirates than we’re normally shown – more fun and less grim than even good old Jack Sparrow – and I liked this little view into what a world of organized piracy might look like.

What I Liked the Least: The book is set is in the year 2512, but I could never figure out why.  There’s really nothing in the story that would require it to be set so far in the future, and the only thing to even indicate a future date at all are some vague reference to ‘the floods’ that covered the world in a lot of water.  Everything about the setting is hard to pinpoint in terms of time.  They have coffeepots, peanut butter, movies (or at least there’s one very brief reference to movies), and some other modern conveniences.  At the same time, they all get around on sailing ships, have oil lamps or candles for light, and fight with swords, axes, and even cannons.  I just couldn’t understand why the book was set so far in the future instead of making up some alternate history set in the 17th century where piracy was a thoroughly established and accepted activity.

I also couldn’t figure out why Conner and Grace were so quickly accepted aboard their respective ships.  I mean, picture a pirate ship pulling a half drowned kid out of the water.  Is it really likely that the captain is going to tell him how sorry he is for his loss and how he wishes there was more that could be done to help rescue the boy’s sister?  Is everyone on the ship going to welcome him with open arms as their newest recruit?  Or are they going to terrorize him, see if he’s worth ransoming, and then either toss him back overboard or give him some lowly and menial role that he’ll have to fight his way up from?  And Grace – well she’s on a ship where there are only two roles a person can play.  They can be a vampire or a donor – and you’ll have to read the book to find out what that is – but for some reason Grace is neither and the captain and other crew members go out of their way to protect her.  There were one or two vague hints as to why that might be the case – and I assume it will come out in later books – but I would have appreciated a tiny bit more information on why she’s so different.

How Good was the Action?  It’s decent.  There are a couple of fight scenes where Somper does a good job of providing blow-by-blow action and weaving Conner’s emotions into the story so that we can feel his fear and nerves as he goes into battle.  But the scenes lacked a crucial element of tension.  Maybe it’s just the stories light-hearted, swashbuckling nature, but I never felt especially nervous for Conner.  The only other major bit of action was the storm that swamped Conner and Grace’s boat early in the story, but it was over so quickly that I hardly had time to feel afraid.

How Engaging was the Story? Vampirates isn’t particularly heavy on character development.  It’s a fairly simple plot-driven novel.  It’s not the most engaging story I’ve ever read, but it was fun, and the alternating chapters (with one following Conner and the next following Grace) kept things varied enough to propel me through the story.  I will say that the sections involving Conner were more action-laden and fun, while the sections involving Grace were more focused on uncovering the mystery of the vampirate ship.

Overall Assessment: Vampirates is a fun, plot-driven story.  It’s fairly light on the action, but still provides an exciting, swashbuckling introduction to the world or pirates and vampires that’s free of dark violence and sexual overtones.

Profanity: None

Sex: None

Violence: Some, but it’s pretty minimal.  There’s no blood and what violence there is has a very swashbuckling tone.  This is not a dark or gritty book.

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