Crossbones by Kimberly Vale reads like a quintessential Wattpad pirate adventure. It’s fast with a loveable ensemble of characters, and a dash of romance and betrayal to spice things up.
From the Blurb:
Never trust a pirate.
The Blood Bell tolls, marking the death of the pirate king and the start of the Trials — a heart-stopping competition where the reward is the Bone Crown. Only one contender can claim the coveted island throne; each will gamble life and limb to win.
Captain. Sister. Maiden.
Csilla Abado yearns to prove her strength to the seasoned pirates who balk at her youth and to her elder sister who has always craved Csilla’s captainship. She will risk everything to become the first pirate queen, no matter the cost.
Dealer. Son. Legacy.
Kane Blackwater wants to leave behind the dirty gold and shady trades he’s made to keep his father’s ship, the Iron Jewel, alive. The Trials represent a new beginning — yet rumors of a secret heir are swirling, threatening his hopes of becoming the pirate king.
Stowaway. Daughter. Storm.
Lorelei Penny longs for nothing more than to avenge her mother’s death. Stowing away on the Iron Jewel was supposed to get her closer to the killer, but instead she finds herself caught up in the deadly battle where loyalty and desire collide.
Csilla. Kane. Lorelei. Each on a mission. The sea, however, has other plans. Dark tides are rising, and if they aren’t careful, they’ll surely drown.
The book opens with Csilla walking towards her execution. What starts out as an emotional scene heavy with description as Csilla delays thinking about the inevitable, quickly picks up the pace when her crew swoops in to save her in a spectacular fashion.
Once rescued, we don’t linger long on Csilla. The first half of the book is concentrated on bringing the main characters together from their scattered locations. The next player we meet is Kane who learns the Trials will be held, then to Lorelei whose world is about to be turned upside down. This allows for a deeper exploration of each character.
Kane is plagued by guilt over unresolved feelings towards his father, Csilla is terrified of appearing weak and losing her position as captain, Rove is the story’s unrepentant villain, and Lorelei is out for revenge. Despite the book’s short length, Vale explores their motivations at length with each character having their own arc. The frequent introspection makes this book incredibly character driven, though the plot doesn’t fall far behind.
Once the gang gathers for The Trials, Crossbones follows a fairly formulaic treasure hunt plot. I was happily surprised by some of the deviations, but I felt the subplots were what brought originality to the book. Csilla’s journey to understand a betrayal and Lorelei’s quest for revenge were my favourites. Vale does leave some subplots unresolved or brushes them off completely, which took away from the book’s complexity.
As there are so many characters, the arcs felt rushed at times, a feeling that comes back in other parts of the book. Vale spends a lot of time bringing the main characters together, which means the Trials are much shorter than what I expected for something that’s so prominent in the book. The worldbuilding also felt too big for the book as there were a number of info-dumps to catch the reader up.
However, Vale still manages to do a lot with her worldbuilding. Set in a world where four nations each worship a different element associated with a deity, the story focuses on the clash between water and fire through the pirates versus the looming empire. There is a lot to absorb in a short time which left me somewhat confused as well as wanting more. There could have been more done in this regard.
Other than this rushed aspect, I thought Vale’s writing was pretty good. Her pacing was good while the writing was a breeze to read. While some aspects of the book were formulaic, Vale used certain tropes in very fun ways. The one that stood out was the “lost heir to the kingdom” trope which hides more than one surprise before its subplot is resolved.
Despite its flaws, I found Crossbones by Kimberly Vale a fun read. Her characters are what shine in this story, but it’s the whole that makes her an author to look out for.