Curse of the Blue Tattoo, by L.A. Meyer (Harcourt, 2005)

After her grand adventures aboard HMS Dolphin came to an ignominious end following the discovery that ship’s boy (later midshipman) Jacky Faber was, in fact, a fifteen-year-old girl, the spirited heroine of the Bloody Jack series embarks upon a new career: schoolgirl.  At the exclusive (and strict) Lawson Peabody School for Girls in Boston, Jacky has to learn how to become a lady … something she’s most ill-prepared to handle.  She’s been an orphan and a sailor, and has even killed men in the heat of battle, but that all pales next to the casual cruelty of teenage girls in a place so far away from home.

Now Jacky’s learning to ride, to dress properly, to use a soup spoon, and to do needlework.  Boring!  Half the girls hate her, and most of the rest laugh at her.  Save for a mere handful of girls, Jacky’s better able to relate to the serving staff.  It doesn’t help, also, that everytime she leaves the school for any reason, she gets in trouble.  And trouble is what she handles best.  From being arrested for “lewd and lacivious conduct” to battling one of the school’s nastiest students, from singing and dancing in local taverns to saving a friend’s farm with a most unorthodox plan, from tormenting visiting ships to ferreting out a murderer, Jacky’s right in the middle of things.  But will she ever see her beloved Jaimy again?

Curse of the Blue Tattoo picks up where Bloody Jack left off, and believe me, the story doesn’t slow down one bit.  Some readers might be put off at the first person, present tense style in which the book is written; I find it kinetic and fluid, representing as it does Jacky’s thoughts and way of speaking.  It takes some getting used to, but I found it rapidly grew on me.

Jacky Faber herself is a rare breed of heroine: accidental. (After all, we’re talking about someone who went to sea simply because ship’s food was a step up from her previous situation…) She’s impulsive, whiny, prone to overacting -and- overreacting, impetuous, stubborn, emotional and very often annoying.  She’s also bold, brave, loyal, strong, and resourceful.  She’s a dubious role model, but fun to watch as she gets in and out of scrapes one after another.  L.A. Meyer has an ear for dialogue, an eye for action scenes, and a knack for accurately portraying the setting in all manner of lights, both good and bad.  Like its predecessor, Curse of the Blue Tattoo is a thick book, densely packed with plot and adventure, and well worth checking out.  After one book I was intrigued; after the second, I’m hooked.


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