fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsbook review Helen Hollick Sea WitchSea Witch by Helen Hollick

I really enjoyed Helen Hollick’s trilogy about King Arthur, and I love pirates, so I had very high hopes for this historical fantasy. Therefore, I was extremely disappointed that I couldn’t even get past chapter five of Sea Witch. The story and the characters seemed promising, and I know from past experience that Ms. Hollick tells a good tale, but the writing was so badly done that I couldn’t continue. I had to keep re-reading paragraphs in order to understand what was going on. It’s not that I don’t understand nautical language — I have read and loved all 21 of Patrick O’Brien’s Master and Commander series. Rather, horribly constructed sentences completely distracted me from the story.

The book was published by Discovered Authors and printed by BookForce UK, and this, I suppose, is the problem. It doesn’t look very professional, and I’m wondering if they edited it at all because the entire book contains a jumble of nearly incomprehensible sentences containing, random, haphazardly, placed, commas, or usually no commas at all and some sentences are run-ons and many have no subject or they have incorrect punctuation here are some examples that come from just a few pages close, together, and you can see what I mean I hope:

  • “Mother was already in the next world, gone to God, except while she hanged the jeering mob had shouted that a woman who plunged a knife into the heart of her own husband was of the Devil’s breeding and would burn in Hell.” [page 11]
  • “Her sight enhanced by her ability of Craft she needed no telescope to put to her eye.” [page 14. She might not need a telescope, but she definitely needs a comma.]
  • “Astern on the quarterdeck, stood their captain, smarter dressed than his crew, a buckram coat, white breeches; a red, feathered plume in his cocked hat.” [page 14. Ah, there’s the missing comma — You gotta watch those sneaky fellas.]
  • “The men, used to the incredible noise and the acrid stink, took no notice, began running in and re-loading with barely a pause.” [page 17. Could I trade a comma for a conjunction?]
  • “He had a sudden urge to look at that child properly; spun on his heel and hurried up the companionway steps to the shattered chaos of the quarterdeck, claimed the telescope from beside the ship’s compass, mercifully, both still intact. Extending the tube to its full length, was about to raise it to his eye when Malachias, his face covered in blood, called his name and distracted his attention.”[I did not make that up — it’s on page 25.]

The entire book goes on with these awkward sentences (I flipped through to check). I’m betting that the story was interesting, but it was so laborious to read that it just was not fun. I’m so disappointed in this novel, but I do recommend Ms. Hollick’s historical fiction.

update: After seeing this review, Ms.  Hollick apologized for the “shoddy copy” and has offered to send me a newer and better-edited copy. If I take her up on her offer and like the book better, I will change this review.

The Sea Witch Chronicles — (2006- ) Publisher: The time: the golden age of piracy, 1716. The Place: the Pirate Round from South Africa to the Islands of the Caribbean. Escaping the bullying of his elder brother, from the age of fifteen Jesamiah Acorne has been a pirate, with only two loves — his ship and his freedom. But his life is to change when he and his crew unsuccessfully attack a merchant ship off the coast of South Africa. He is to meet Tiola Oldstagh, an insignificant girl or so he thinks — until she rescues him from a vicious attack, and almost certain death, by pirate hunters. And then he discovers what she really is; a healer and a midwife — and a white witch. Her name, an anagram of “all that is good.” Jesamiah and Tiola become lovers, despite her guardian, Jenna Pendeen’s disapproval, but Stefan van Overstratten a Cape Town Dutchman, also wants Tiola as his wife, and Jesamiah’s half brother Phillipe Mereno, is determined to seek revenge for a stolen ship and the insult of being cuckolded. When the call of the sea and an opportunity to commandeer a beautiful ship, Sea Witch — is put in Jesamiah’s path, he must make a choice between his life as a pirate or his love for Tiola; he wants both — but Mereno and Von Overstratten want him dead. In trouble, imprisoned in the darkness and stench that is the lowest part of his brother’s ship, can Tiola with her Craft, and the aid of Roux, Jesamiah’s quartermaster and the rest of his loyal crew, save her pirate? And can she keep Jesamiah safe from another who wants him for herself? From the elemental being that is Tethys, Goddess of the Sea? A charismatic pirate rogue and a white witch — what better combination for a story of romance and high-sea fantasy adventure?

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviews fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviews (fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsfantasy book reviews science fiction book reviews) On the Account: Volume 5 (The Sea Witch Voyages) by Helen Hollick



  • Kat Hooper

    KAT HOOPER, who started this site in June 2007, earned a Ph.D. in neuroscience and psychology at Indiana University (Bloomington) and now teaches and conducts brain research at the University of North Florida. When she reads fiction, she wants to encounter new ideas and lots of imagination. She wants to view the world in a different way. She wants to have her mind blown. She loves beautiful language and has no patience for dull prose, vapid romance, or cheesy dialogue. She prefers complex characterization, intriguing plots, and plenty of action. Favorite authors are Jack Vance, Robin Hobb, Kage Baker, William Gibson, Gene Wolfe, Richard Matheson, and C.S. Lewis.

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