Sunday, June 21, 2009
Bloody Jack: Being an account of the Curious Adventures of Mary "Jacky" Faber, Ship's boy
By L. A. Meyer
It isn't easy being a girl in the 19th century. Especially when your family is deceased, you're an orphan, and have to be a gang member to survive the streets of London. The only thing guaranteed is death, then your corpse being collected and used for experimentation. Sure, that could happen, but only by choice. When the chance comes it must be taken. And take it, she did.
Mary Faber isn't illiterate. This allows her to occasionally earn a little extra money for her gang, The Rooster Charlie Gang. They were the ones who saved her from her first grip with death. After her mother and sister died; she was put out in the streets by Muck, the corpse seller, to die. Since then she has been with them, like a family. The daily grind is simple: beg, beg, keep territory, and survive. No one wants to come into Muck's grasp. Nor do any of them want to starve to death. Despite the circumstances, they all have dreams.
Mary wants to have her own ship one day, and become a merchant. She wants the chance to break free. At first this doesn't appear to be a possibility, but after the murder of a gang member, she decides to take a chance. Not knowing exactly what she'll do, her quest begins. Mary leaves her gang, and sets out to find her fortune.
If she were a boy a lot could happen. It is a known truth, that even a dumb, filthy boy can do anything better than a smart girl. Using her shiv she cuts off her hair and changes into boy's clothing. Then heads to the HMS Dolphin where they need six ship's boys. Her ability to read gets her the position. While signing on she changes her age and name to Jacky, her father's name. This transition brings about entertaining and sometimes funny happenings.
At one point in the story, I thought I had figured out how she got her nickname, Bloody Jack. The little red sister (a phrase gotten from Shanghai Girls), her period, is what I thought it was, but that wasn't it. I'll let you find out, because I hate spoilers, and even what I said before might have spoiled something for someone. The story is really nice. It is not your usual coming of age tale, if it can even be considered that. She along with all the other ship's boys grow throughout the story. Some even get promoted to higher ranks. Before any of this though, there are some problems: a pedophile trying to molest her, crushing on one of her mates, finding out about being a woman, and of course, keeping her true identity a secret.
I recommend this book and the rest of the series, to anyone who likes adventure, nautical life, and of course, a heroine.
Note: It can be slightly boring at times, but what good book isn't like that.