REVIEW: Tell No Tales: Pirates of the Southern Seas
Tell No Tales: Pirates of the Southern Seas
By Sam Maggs and Kendra Wells
160 pages, Amulet Books, $12.99/$21.99
Sam Maggs has carved out a fine career writing imaginative young adult fiction and graphic novels. Here, she teams with artist Kendra Wells to tackle the two best known female pirates: Anne Bonny and Mary Read. They are sailing the high seas along with Calico Jack and having a grand old time.
There’s a four-page text section discussing the historic facts behind the pirates and its makes far more interesting reading than the simplified tale presented ahead of it.
Being a pirate wasn’t easy and it was harder for women. In both cases, Bonny and Read had to discuss themselves as men to fit in, with all the complications attendant to that. At the time, Bonny had left her husband and married Jack, only to fall for Read, thinking she was a he. After that, speculation remains whether or not there was bisexual hanky-panky going on.
Instead, we get a 16 year Bonny, plucky as all get out, who captains her own ship and goes on adventures with Jack and later meets Read. The British navy are seen as a mere impediment, a distraction from their adventuring.
The plot has many a side trip and we get contemporary social outrage over injustices that were normal life of the day, so you’re constantly taken out of the story.
The characterizations are 21st century, dialogue complete with emojis, and everything sanitized for your reading pleasure. This commits the same sin as Cleopatra in Space does, using the names for identification but none of the actual person.
Wells’ art is also too simplified so it’s hard to tell teens from adults. There’s too much Manga to the faces and none of the grit and texture of life aboard a pirate ship. That said, the color is nice and many of the pages are well designed.
While fanciful and colorful, this is a misfire on many levels and can’t be recommended.