Book Review: On Stranger Tides

Tim Powell’s On Stranger Tides caught my interest because it’s apparently the story on which the next Pirates of the Caribbean movie is going to be based. I could see it: Powell’s book is set at the twilight of the great age of piracy in a world where magic is possible, but almost exclusively in the new world of the Americas and Caribbean.

As far as world building goes, this struck me as a pretty darn interesting premise. The magic is a mix of voodoo, old-world hexes, necromancy, and good old fashioned “burn the other guy to a crisp” approaches. The author plays it pretty loose with the internal logic and rules of his system, so that I never really did understand it and there were several aspects of it that were transparently there in service of the plot. But it was creative and fun, and that’s enough. Plus I like pirates and all that nautical talk.

The plot of the book is kind of another story. Our hero is Jack Shandy, a former English gentleman forced into piracy by his capture and a series of unlikely events –a standard trope of stories that want to have a pirate hero, but want to side step that whole “he’s a murdering murderer who murders” problem. Shandy spends most of the book trying to track down and rescue his inexplicable love interest, a young woman form whom her sorcerous father has nefarious plans. There’s also the Fountain of Youth, Blackbeard, and lots of zombies.

All in all it was a pretty fun book, but mostly for the world building an the pure novelty of it. Jack Shandy and the other characters in the book aren’t inherently interesting, though, and Powell didn’t strike me as a writer that could hold my interest once the novelty of the setting wore off.

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