On the Cover: It was a slender length of rusted steel, tapered to a point at one end and jagged at the other, as if it had broken. A thousand people would step over it and think it trash, but not her.
This was the tip of a rapier.
Sixteen-year-old Jill has fought in dozens of fencing tournaments, but she has never held a sharpened blade. When she finds a corroded sword piece on a Caribbean beach, she is instantly intrigued and pockets it as her own personal treasure.
The broken tip holds secrets, though, and it transports Jill through time to the deck of a pirate ship. Stranded in the past and surrounded by strangers, she is forced to sign on as crew. But a pirate’s life is bloody and brief, and as Jill learns about the dark magic that brought her there, she forms a desperate scheme to get home–one that risks everything in a duel to the death with a villainous pirate captain.
Why I Chose It: Carrie Vaughn wrote Voices of Dragons, which I loved. I jumped at the chance to read another book by her!
The Review: I am so glad I decided to pick up this book! Once again Vaughn made a character that I absolutely fell in love with. The book starts with Jill losing a fencing match, which really bothers her. I loved this start, as I found it made Jill much more real and easy to relate to. It does take a few pages to get Jill and her family to the Caribbean to start their vacation, and for Jill to then find the rapier tip that transports her back in time, but once there I was absolutely fascinated with the story.
Jill’s adventures on a pirate ship were absolutely incredible. I thought that Vaughn’s depictions of life on a ship were very realistic, and I definitely felt like I was actually there. I think the part that made it so real was that Jill had to take on duties such as scrubbing the deck. This job was hard and long and you could really feel for Jill. I also loved that you got descriptions of everything on the ship – the crew, the water, the food, different parts or functions of the ship itself. I loved how much detail there was, and yet the book remained light and easy to read. It didn’t feel dragged down by all the descriptions, but rather remained fast-paced even though I was still getting the big picture.
Fencing was actually a really neat aspect of the story, because it remained constant throughout. I dislike books that introduce a hobby at the beginning that the character never goes back to, until maybe right at the end of the book. But Steel was very nicely centered around Jill’s experiences in fencing, because when transported she gets the opportunity to learn to fight with a real rapier. Of course, fighting with a sharp blade comes with consequences, and Jill’s concern around this is really genuine, which made me appreciate her character even more.
Finally, I loved the pace of the novel. Jill’s jobs on the ship are monotonous. Reading about scrubbing the decks day after day can become boring really fast. Yet Vaughn very delicately balances the writing in the book so that you feel the monotony through Jill, and yet just at the moment you may start to feel bored, something appears or happens that snaps your interest back into place. The novel was very true to a ship-scrubber’s work, yet fast-paced and exciting, with cannon battles, sword fights and sarcastic pirates. I could hardly put this book down, and I definitely recommend it for anyone who loves pirates, ships, or fencing.
Rating: 5 / 5