Publisher: Tor Books
The tiny nation of Swansgaard is a lovely place with abundant natural resources, including the royal family, which has been blessed with twelve daughters and a son. As this boisterous baker's dozen approaches adulthood, the king and queen lovingly tell their daughters, "You must make your own fortune, for we cannot enrich you without impoverishing our people or leaving our lands defenceless, and that we will not do."
Happily, the princesses of Swansgaard are eager to meet this challenge, for they yearn for adventures both near and far from home.
Clarice, an expert swordswoman, is the first to depart. Disguising herself as Clarence, she signs on for a voyage to the New World. The captain is vile and blackhearted, and the crew soon mutinies. Clarice becomes first mate - and finds her heart captured by the new captain, Dominick, who is, to his own surprise, increasingly attracted to Clarence.
Now outlaws, Dominick and his crew turn to piracy - though their hearts are not entirely in it. They soon run afoul of the Pirate Council, who orders them to retrieve the Heart of Light. All who have searched for this great treasure have vanished, with neither ships nor crews ever seen again and no sign of their fates ever discovered.
But none before have carried with them the sorceress Shamal, who stakes a claim of her own on Dominick's heart.
This looks like it's going to be a series of books, each based on one of the twelve princesses of Swansgaard. This is Clarice's story...
Like the blurb explains, the kingdom is tiny, and her parents can't afford to marry off all of their daughters (with a nice dowry). But because they have progressive/loving/supportive/cool parents, each of the princesses has been trained in the profession of their choice.
Clarice (the eldest daughter) chose to train with a sword.
On her eighteenth birthday, she takes off to find adventure and make her way in the world as a famous swordswoman.
Now, from what I understand, that plan mainly consisted of her winning some duels, making a name for herself, and getting some students.
In order to do that, she decides to travel to this world's version of the Americas.
Of course, she ends up on a ship with an evil captain, and (after bad things happen) the crew does the mutiny thing.
As a landlubber, I had no idea this was such a big deal. Apparently, though, you're not supposed to do that sort of thing on the High Seas...for any reason.
I learned something new!
Clarence/Clarice has become close friends with the ship's navigator, and (naturally) she develops feelings for him, but can't seem to find the right time to let him know she's a girl. The romance is important to the plot, but it takes a backseat to the action and adventure stuff.
It's a nice touch, and since there's no hanky-panky going on between these two, they have to actually become real friends. Bonus!
Meanwhile, since this is a world with magic, they also run into some supernatural piratey stuff. They have to fight off curses, charms, and a witchy woman who seems to have some powerful hocus pocus on her side.
Is it great?
I've enjoyed some of Lackey's stories in the past, but this one didn't WOW me enough to make me want to come back and re-visit this world.
But I didn't hate it, either. It was just sort of...meh?
It was entertaining, and there was nothing glaringly wrong with the book, so if you're looking for a light adventure story, then this might be for you.