The Silver Swan Kelly Gardiner, The Swashbuckler trilogy, Vol 3, HarperCollins, 2007, 176 pages, paperback, NZ$16.99.
“The dungeons!” he called out to us, pointing to a grim-looking staircase descending into darkness just inside the gate. He flashed a wicked smile.
Never was a series better named than The Swashbuckler Trilogy, which has now reached completion with The Silver Swan. Lily Swann first bursts on to the literary scene in Ocean Without End (2006) when she is captured by pirates. With her enthusiasm and initiative she rises through the ranks, serving as an assistant sea-cook, reluctant surgeon and part-time pirate before her navigation skills bring her a share of the proceeds and her own cabin. “I’d never had a room to myself.”
Lily’s original aim was to rescue her father Rafael, perhaps a pirate himself, one of the many characters in these books who have had to adopt a false identity. Even Carlos the cabin boy turns out to be the son of Maltese nobility; Lily enjoys a debate with his mother, the Duchessa de Santiago, on the rights of women and whether a life at sea is a suitable career choice for a young girl.
Lily’s cheerful first-person narrative keeps the action moving, as she continues to evade the revenge-seeking Captain Diablo. Even when the evil Diablo traps Lily in a sea-cave and leaves her to die, in The Pirate’s Revenge (2006), she bravely escapes and finds a fortune in pearls while she is doing it.
As Lily and her piratical companions become involved in various conflicts between the French, Ottoman and British navies (not to mention other pirates) Lily makes no bones about the dangers of sea-battles: “A cannonball just minces people to bits.”
Having already survived being cast adrift, Lily now finds herself in another sea battle in The Silver Swan, as well as leading a rescue mission through the sewers of Valetta to save Carlos. She even faces Diablo in a final duel, before receiving the ultimate compliment from Nelson. “Then the greatest and bravest admiral in the world winked at me.”
This bouncy trilogy has shown that Kelly Gardiner is capable of excellent plotting and writing. It will be interesting to see what her wide-ranging interests lead her to write about next.
Note: Don’t miss Kelly Gardiner’s website for the series at www.swashbuckler.co.nz.
This review by Trevor Agnew first appeared in The Press, Christchurch, on 14th July 2007