“Pirate Women” Book Review

Laura Sook Duncombe saw that there was a lack of books on pirates about the females who also sailed ships and looted for treasure across the seven seas. So, she decided to write her own and that is how we have “Pirate Women”. I picked up this book at the Pirate Museum in St. Augustine, Florida. I was not expecting much as it was just one, I had picked up at random with no research on but Duncombe blew me away with this book. This is not just a pretty cover with cool colors, there is so much information inside that I never about before.

This book does go in chronological order, I am so thankful for that as it does not confuse the reader at all. That being said we start in the ancient world on the Mediterranean with the Greeks and Romans, these were ancient queens like most women throughout this book we do not know if they were fact or fiction or somewhere in the middle. That is a common theme here, women were often written over in history and there is not a lot of information to be found on these women. They were just supposed to sit there looking pretty and baring children to their husbands not fighting against other Greek city states.

The next step we take is towards Ladgerda and the Vikings who are trying to reach the halls of Valhalla. The writer debates on if these warrior women should be listed as literal pirates. Most of the fighting was done on the shores of England or other states on the North and Baltic seas. It was fighting and raiding on land and then back on the ship to Scandinavia.  Nevertheless, the tales of these female Viking warriors are interesting and had been pasted orally for hundreds of years.

I did not find the pirates of Brittany in the middle ages as interesting as the Vikings, but I do think some will. There should be a television show or at least a historical fiction book on these women and what they did to protect their thrones and rights. Throughout this chapter I could not help but think that George R.R. Martin, the author of A Game of Thrones, took inspiration from some of these women for his universe in the A Song of Ice and Fire series.

And then on and on we go throughout history, the Barbary era of pirates with the sultans, Queen Elizabeth I with the sea dogs she hired to take on the Spanish Armada. The Golden Age of piracy taking place in the 1700s with the likes of Anne Bonny and her crew. The story takes us all the way to China in the twentieth century. There was so much to learn in this book that is so small that it is less than three hundred pages long.

Enough of the summary for now, lets get to my likes and dislikes. As I stated previous, I like that this is in historical order, so I did not have to sit down and write out a timeline for myself. seriously, if you are writing a nonfiction book, please go in chronological order. One thing I loved that the author is a woman, writing about women, and most of the sources that she used were also female. It was just awesome to see! The book was easy to understand and I was never confused. The chapters had a good page length, usually around fifteen pages long. (Another bit of advice if you plan to write a book, never make a chapter fifty pages. I will lose interest.)

Duncombe also does a good job at setting the scene. Yes, this is a nonfiction piece of work, but she does a great time at describing the world that these women were living in and how it might have attributed to their actions. The author also reminds us time and time again that we do have enough information on these women to know their stories full and well. We also must remember that the things we learn in history are never one hundred percent certain as we are not hearing all the sides of it and we were not there. That information is so important to remember as we learn or read anything that is nonfiction.

I only have small complaints. The last chapter about actual pirates, chapter 13. I felt like it was rushed. We had so many women to discuss and only got a few short paragraphs about them and I feel like I did not learn as much about them as I did about the previous women and that is strange as these female pirates were all in the last century, some in my life time. Then there was the last chapter about pirate women on the big screen. I felt this chapter to be unnecessary as these are all known works of fiction. The chapter was basically the full plots of movies that I will never watch. It was a waste of time.

I really enjoyed this book. It is probably my favorite nonfiction that I have read this year and I will have to look and see if Laura Sook Duncombe has any other books out that I can have the pleasure in reading. Just learning about how these women got into these situations rather it be that they were born or married into it, joining the sea life, dressed as a male to get out of societies standards. It was just so interesting to read and I definitely want to read more about pirates in the future. Five out of five stars read.

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