Kestrel is a Promise, a child born with magical abilities, and as such, she should have been turned over to the Danisobans, terrifying wizards who control all magic on the Nine Islands. Instead, her parents died saving her from the magic wielders, and Kestrel has spent her entire life running from the magic she fears. Fortunately for her, Danisoban abilities are neutralized by salt water, so she takes to the seas and a life of piracy. When her captain is lead into a trap by the rogue McAvery, she takes it upon herself to save him, and her one place of safety.
Mad Kestrel is a fun romp of a book. Probably inspired by the recent success of Jack Sparrow, this book captures the same rollicking feel. The characters are interesting and memorable, and written with a distinct flair that makes them all easy to imagine, especially the aging Captain Binns, Kestrel, master gunner Shadd, and McAvery.
The plot moves along at a fast clip, guided by Kestrel’s absolute loyalty to her captain and her distrust of everyone else. When events unfold to betray that loyalty (there are more double crosses and betrayals than are probably necessary), it is interesting to watch Kestrel’s true personality emerge. She doesn’t automatically become the conquering hero, but instead comes up with a plan and deals with the consequences when it falls apart around her. This makes for a believable heroine, and a more believable plot than I was expecting.
Mad Kestrel isn’t a highly original book. An orphaned hero with a unique once-in-a-generation magical ability who has to overcome her poor background to save the kingdom occurs in probably dozens of fantasy novels. But Massey manages to turn what could be clichéd into a fun tale of fantastical adventure on the high seas. If you’re looking for deep, thought-provoking fantasy, this isn’t for you, but if you want a light, fun read, Mad Kestrel may be just the treat you’re looking for.