All hands on deck!
If you're in the mood for a quick, action-packed, lighthearted read, then look no further than Tricia Levenseller's Daughter of the Pirate King duology.
NOTE: There are minor spoilers for the series, so if you want to avoid them, skip down to the CONCLUSION.
Genre: YA Fantasy
Category: Cozy Read
Want to know more about how we categorize books? See our Lexicon for details.
RATING: 3.5/5 Stars
Plot: 3.5/5 stars
Characters: 4/5 stars
World: 3/5 stars
If you hadn't guessed already, our protagonist Alosa is the pirate king Kalligan's daughter—which means she's one tough lass.
Daughter of the Pirate King begins in the middle of ship raid in which Alosa is taken captive, as she planned. Her mission is to play the victim while searching the ship for a piece of a fragmented map that, once whole, will lead to the legendary Isla de Canta—an island abundant in treasure and guarded by sirens.
Of course, this doesn't always go smoothly, and she often ends up having to stage yet another capture to avoid too much suspicion.
What Alosa is not planning on is catching feels for the pirate responsible for keeping her locked up and interrogating her while she's "captive." But who can blame her? Riden is a distracting hottie! But as they get to know each other, Alosa wonders how much of it is real and how much is Riden trying to get information on her father; and Riden is unsure if Alosa's charm is real or part of the unnatural abilities he's discovering.
For me, the romance came a bit too quick—it wasn't insta-love, but there wasn't much of a build up, and sometimes the novel felt like a romance rather than a fantasy adventure.
However, in Daughter of the Siren Queen, Alosa is back to captaining her own ship—the Ava-lee—and this time it's Riden who is captive (and not by choice). That'll cause some angst, ami'right?
Now with two-thirds of the map secured, Alosa has only one piece to go—and she has a vendetta against Vordan, the pirate captain who has it.
Once again, Levenseller wastes no time getting to the action. Book two opens with Alosa and her crew launching an attack on Vordan's crew. When she has the map piece in her possession, she heads back to the father's keep, and they begin planning their voyage to Isla de Canta. But when Alosa discovers a dark family secret, she goes in search of the island herself . . . with an angry father hot in her wake.
Whatever book one was lacking, book two picked up its slack. It had more action, a treasure hunt, further exploration of Alosa's abilities, more of a slow-burn romance, more locations, and of course SIRENS!
Alosa proves to be a badass from the first chapter. And from the stories about her upbringing, it's no wonder! But in book two, she also proves herself deserving of her ship and crew's unwavering loyalty. Between that, her brutality and brilliant plans, her snark, her confidence, her secret abilities, the way she puts men in their place, and her love of nice clothing, she reminds me a bit of Celaena/Aelin from the Throne of Glass series.
Her crew reminds me somewhat of the Thirteen (a witch coven, also from ToG) due to their distinct personalities and roles, and the way they work together so seamlessly. There's also a youngster onboard who's very enthusiastic about her role and being a pirate.
That said, not all of the crew were female. Alosa has also recruited a handful of men, including some of her "captors" from book one. One of these new recruits, Enwen, is adorable, and I loved every scene he's in. In book one, he was kind to Alosa despite having to guard her, and he's adamant about being friends with one of his shipmates—who is mean to him and insists they are NOT friends—simply because "he [the crew member] needs someone."
I also appreciate how one of the new recruits grows by giving up rum and working to better himself. His character really came alive throughout this journey, and it was beautiful.
Then of course we have Riden, who also chooses to become a member of Alosa's crew. He has his own demons to face down *cough, daddy issues, cough*. At times, he was being so dense I wanted to smack him. Luckily, Alosa takes none of his crap and calls him out on it (he calls her out a few times as well). Once again, they're stuck on a ship together and the tension builds . . . to the point that I, and even some of her crew, were like:
Between both books, we get all the pirate tropes: typical bad guys, thieves, drunks, the superstitious, the explorers, those in love with the sea, and those with no other choice open to them. We're also given variety in skin colors and sexual identities—there are people of color, gay men, and one of Alosa's crew is asexual.
All in all, I enjoyed the characters in this series. The good guys are lovable, and it's satisfying when the bad guys get what's coming to them, especially Kalligan.
Most of book one takes place on a ship, and Alosa's abilities are not often used or elaborated on, making the story feel lacking in the world-building department. Book two makes up for it: we go to the pirate keep and different islands, and Levenseller gets more in-depth with the fantasy aspect.
The sirens are very interesting. I like that instead of going with the typical mermaid-y portrayal, Levenseller's sirens have a full feminine body with legs. Their abilities to read men's desires and emotions to embody their idea of a perfect woman is a neat take. I also love their relationship to the water and how it fuels their power. But I think my favorite part is that their powers don't work on gay men. Immunity to their powers is also granted to those who accept a siren rather than fight her.
The sirens are portrayed as bloodthirsty monsters with no feelings or attachments, and we see this somewhat played out in Alosa; whenever she gives in to her siren side, she becomes a different person and forgets about her human life. That is, until she figures out how to control the monster within. I'm not totally thrilled she needed a man for this, but it was a nice way to build her relationship with Riden. We also see this debunked when the sirens grieve for their fallen during battle and come to accept Alosa as one of their own.
While it doesn't quite make my list of favorites, the Daughter of the Pirate King duology was so much fun to read, and I am glad I finally got around to it. It has an interesting plot with exciting action and endearing characters, and despite the world-building being a little flat, I liked Levenseller's take on sirens. I also appreciated the themes of self-acceptance and integration of the shadow.
This duology reads on the younger side of YA, and I think that part of me would have loved to see this story played out as an adult series, but it keeps the story from being too dark and complicated. It's a quick, enjoyable read with a little bit of spice.
That said, there are a couple things that could potentially trigger some readers: mention of abusive fathers and alcohol withdrawals, unwanted sexual advances, a band of cannibals, and a child that's near-fatally injured.
If you can handle those bits, I would recommend this duology to fans of pirates, badass female groups, slow-burn romance, and tropes like "I came to kill you, but . . .", forced proximity, only one bed, and enemies to lovers.