Dusted Off: Steel by Carrie Vaughn

SteelSteel by Carrie Vaughn

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Let me start by saying I’m a big, big fan of Carrie Vaughn. Read every book–and can’t imagine stopping. I’ve recommended this book to my sons and am going to loan this to my niece. But, (and you knew one was coming given that opening) man, this could’ve been–should’ve been–a much better book.

Jill, a championship level fencer and potential Olympian, suffers a tough loss, sending her into a losing battle with self-doubt. Soon after, her parents drag her along on a family vacation in the Bahamas (poor girl, right?). Walking along the beach, she stumbles on to a piece of a broken sword–an old, broken sword. First time she’s held anything but a blunt, sport blade. Enchanted with the notion, she tucks it away.

Turns out, not only is her imagination bespelled, she is–before she knows it, Jill finds herself on an actual pirate ship a couple of hundred years in the past. After she figures out what happened to her, she finds herself part of the crew, growing close to a handful of them (a hunky age-appropriate pirate in particular) and learning about the sword’s magic.

While she tries to find a way home, she learns a little about herself and a little about life. (wow, that sounds like a cheesy after school special…which not exactly inaccurate, but Vaughn pulls it off).

Vaughn touches upon some pretty dark stuff here, enough to make it authentic (or authentic-ish, anyway)–but makes sure that it stays a pretty tame PG-13.

And that’s the crux of my problem with the book–she pulls her punches, just about all of them. She did it with Voices of Dragons, too–less so, here, though. Yes, it’s a YA book, and yes, I think she’s right to do it. I just think she shouldn’t pull back as much. Everything here–from character, plot, setting, narrative, action–it’s all perfectly fine, it’s all age appropriate, but she certainly could’ve fleshed it all out more without going over the line.

Still, it’s a good, swashbuckling read.

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