Thursday, December 11, 2014

The Pirate Princess (Jinx #2) by Alice Rozen

Jinx the witch is not shy about using her powers when she think it is warranted, much to the worry of the school authorities. To try and unruffle a few feathers, Jinx finds herself pulled into starring in a school play about the dread pirate captain, Sirena.

She had many worries and jitters about the play – but she definitely didn’t expect Sirena on her fabled ghostly pirate ship, the Flying Dutchman, to actually appear as the performance began.

With the new surprise arrival of Felix, Jinx must match wits with the pirate captain who is determined to sacrifice a witch born on hallowe’en to Davy Jones and isn’t afraid of having to hurt people in the process

This is one of those hard reviews to write – because I don’t have a lot to say but still loved it. I loved it because it’s immense fun. The story is fun, the characters are fun, the world setting is fun. It’s just all so very fun. It’s light, it’s fast paced, the action is perfectly balanced, it’s funny and there are lots of extremely fun, epic moments of excitement that, at the same time, don’t go over the top nor do they try to get too gritty or dark. It’s fun, it’s a fun read, it’s meant to be fun. And I can’t just write a review which says “it’s fun, go read it for the fun because fun!” though, really, what more could you possibly want from a book beyond fun? It’s one of the most difficult aspects of reviewing that when you liked a book for simple, good reasons, the review is short.

Of course, while the fun is by far and away the main reason to read it, there are some nice bonuses on top of that as well. We have a short but intriguing story that involves battling the enemy in ways beyond merely squishing and killing them as well as complex villains with difficult and deep motives that are hide to argue against, even if they are overly idealistic and simplistic. We have some excellent character development in Jinx’s school life and how she uses her powers as you’d really expect a 10 year old to use her powers. This also involves, very refreshingly, a complete absence of the usual “waaah I have super powers, it’s so terrible to be me!” Jinx is a witch, she likes being a witch, she loves her powers, she has absolutely no desire to hide her powers or suppress them and she’s quite willing to let loose when she sees things she disagrees this. Does this give the 10 year old Jinx something of an invincibility complex? Of course – but what 10 year old wouldn’t?

I like how this world has developed – building from the foundation of last book, we’re now expanding outwards. Not only with the introduction of Felix (and it is only the introduction this book, there isn’t much development of it yet – but this is a 100 page book with a lot of action) and a good foundation for that future relationship, but also with bringing in the Illuminati and general hints of meta. After the basics from the first book, this book is littered with little plot hooks promising that there’s a full meaty series to come that is going to be more than what we see. This gives me a lot of hope that there’s a full series run available here.

There is some excellent inclusive elements when it comes to LGBT people. Jinx is a lesbian and completely un-shy about it – not because this is a world where discrimination is brushed under the rug, but because she’s a witch with super powers and she can and will react firmly with curses for anyone who looses bigotry around her – and not just aimed at her but also those around her. There’s an excellent presentation and challenge of homophobia, misogyny, racism and transphobia around Jinx as well as a comment on both Jinx’s vigilante actions but also the school’s general unwillingness to do anything substantial about it. There are two trans characters, one minor and the other the Pirate Princess Sirena herself. She has faced bigotry and still risen up as a pretty awesome antagonist. I especially liked Jinx playing the role of Sirena in the play – since Sirena is Roma and trans, Jinx was unwilling to take the part unless there were no actual Roma or trans students in the school willing to play it. She ended up going ahead, even though she really didn’t want to act, out of outrage that other cis cast members were unwilling to play an awesome role as a pirate captain because they didn’t want to play a trans woman.

Sirena is a Roma (and she will cut you if you call her a gypsy) and there are minor Black and Asian characters but they’re not there in any great depth.

Did I mention this book is fun? Because it is. It’s an incredibly quick read during which you will probably grin like a fool the whole time – but that fun is back with enough substance, enough meaning and enough complexity to ensure there’s both a good plot and fodder for a lot more to come.