by Carrie Vaughn
Release Date: March 15, 2011
Softcover Edition; 304 Pages
Genre: Young Adult
Source: Review Copy from Publisher
3 / 5 Stars
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.
Steel was an interesting novel about swordsmanship and piracy, and while it didn't blow me away with adventure scenes and out of this world suspense, I did find it enjoyable. It is one of those novels that I read purely for entertainment purposes, but it leaves no lasting impressions once finished and I've moved on to another novel. I enjoyed the concept of the novel, thought the descriptions of life on the ship were pretty interesting, but in reality, the lack of suspense and intrigue wore me out in the end, and I was counting the pages down, glad to be finished.
I liked Jill very much, but I couldn't relate to her all of the time. As a competitive athlete myself, I know what it feels like to be down after a competition, but I found her character to be distant and I couldn't seem to attach myself to her feelings and emotions. Again, it wasn't that I didn't like her, I just couldn't seem to relate to her on an emotional level. I did however, really like Marjory Cooper, the captain of the ship, and really felt a connection for her. I kind of wished the story revolved more around her as I found her fascinating and her story so tragic. She would have had so much to say, I am sure. The other characters just seemed to be around, and I would have liked to have known more about them as well, as I think it would have made the novel so much more interesting. I felt like the characters took a back seat to the descriptions of life on the ship and this bothered me to a certain extent.
I found the plot to be somewhat predictable and even Ms. Vaughn mentions that the pirates didn't always act true to character of the time period. While maybe she was downplaying the violence and tone because this was a young adult novel, for someone who knows a little about piracy during this time period, the events do come across as somewhat false. While I understand the possible thinking, I wish it was somewhat grittier at times. That being said, I really did enjoy the descriptions of life on the ship, the sailing terms, and the fencing aspects as that is something I know little about. I think the shock for Jill when she realized she was fencing for life or death instead of for medals and ribbons would have been far bigger than it was.
I was a little disappointed in the ending. I wasn't expecting a big farewell or anything, but I was expecting something a little different. It just felt anticlimatic, and unfortunately, that's all I can say or I will give away too much.
I enjoyed Steel, but I wasn't overly crazy about it. It did have some good moments about it, especially concerning the descriptions of pirate life on board the ship which I really thought were interesting. And while Ms. Vaughn is a beautiful writer, the plot just didn't live up to expectations and I found it predictable and forgettable. It is evident that Ms. Vaughn put a lot of research into this novel and I have to commend her for that. Despite the formidable amount of research that went into this novel, and the amazing descriptions, the lack of plot and character development made it a disappointing read.