Author: Justin Somper
First Published: 2005
Vampirates is a children/young adult’s book and, by the title, I am sure you can guess it is about vampire pirates. It has become somewhat fashionable, since the phenomena of Harry Potter, for adults to read books designed for a younger market and, as it has vampires in it, I thought I’d give this a go.
The book itself is a strange mix of settings. Whilst containing both pirates and vampirates and all the trappings thereof, such as galleons and cutlasses, the book is actually set in 2505, off the coast of Australia, after the oceans have risen.
In the prologue we meet Connor and Grace Tempest, 14 year old twins, and see something of the relationship they have with their father, a lighthouse keeper. Connor is unusually strong for his age and Grace unusually bright and their father often sings them a shanty about vampirates, in an attempt to show that no matter how bad things get there is always something else worse out there, ie/ the vampirates – though given their fate to come perhaps he was preparing them.
The first chapter opens with the funeral of their father and the twins are now orphans (they never knew their mother). Unfortunately their father died in debt and all his property is now to be repossessed by the bank. So it is that Connor and Grace take their father’s boat and run away to sea. Unfortunately they, almost immediately, get caught in a storm and capsize. Both are rescued, Connor by pirates and Grace by vampirates.
The chapters alternate between the twins. Both hold out hope that the other is alive and, eventually, their hopes are kindled in different ways. Grace is shown a vision of Connor by the vampirate Captain and Connor hears the ghostly voice of their father, telling him that his twin is still alive.
Grace is kept hidden from the crew by the mysterious masked Captain and Midshipman Lorcan Furey but, despite their best efforts, she eventually realises where she has ended up. There is tension amongst the vampire crew as many dislike the restrictions placed upon their natural tendencies by the Captain. "We've felt the hunger and based our whole existence around it." says the Captain as he tries to explain why the vampires should not succumb to their natural tendencies, and the new order he has developed, to Grace.
The pirates are divided also, between those who live to the rules placed upon them by the Pirate Federation and those who are still convinced that the old ways are the best. Connor is caught in this clash of old and new as he is taken under the wing of Captain Molucco Wrathe, a believer in the old ways with more than a touch of the Jack Sparrow to him, and also catches the eye of Cheng Li, the deputy Captain fresh out of Pirate Academy and a supporter of the new system.
The book itself is basically written from an adult point of view and, to a degree, it doesn’t stand up so well to the literature needs of a more mature reader, though the style is fresh and will be appreciated by its target audience. That said the story is interesting enough and the characters are well drawn. The book is the first of a series and I am sure that the author has plenty of material to let it run for some time. Score wise I’m going to give this 7 out of 10, keeping in mind that this is a children’s book and so those looking for graphic description of vampiric feeding and brutal pirate battles will be bitterly disappointed, the details are there but are skilfully composed so as to be none-graphic. I am sure that this will prove a fine book for those genre fans who wish to get their children a little more involved with their interest.
The series has a homepage with sample chapters, wallpapers and screensavers.
Wednesday, July 26, 2006
Author: Justin Somper