Published by Thomas Nelson Publishers
Wayne Thomas Batson takes a dive into high seas during the age of piracy in his novel, The Isle of Swords. With this novel, Batson’s writing shows improvement. The story here focuses on Declan Ross, his ship the William Wallace, and its crew as they search for legendary treasure. Anne, Declan’s daughter, is the youthful protagonist who helps to drive the plot.
A sea storm and mysterious boy with no memory is how Batson launches the story. With relatively short chapters, the story flows very nicely as we are introduced to Anne and Declan. While Declan is a pirate, he still has honor – he is true to his crew and does not kill. What he really wants; however, is to put the life of piracy behind him. A chance run in with the notorious pirate Bartholemew Thorne may put him on the course to a less larcenous life. After Ross engages one of Thorne’s lieutenants in a sea battle, he ends up on island which may hold the map to a treasure which will allow Ross to be free of piracy. Unfortunately, Thorne is hot on his heels and soon tries to find his way towards this Holy Grail of a treasure.
While the thought of two pirates hunting for the same treasure may prove fertile enough ground for a good swashbuckler, Batson plants more seeds. Ross’s daughter Anne plays the role of headstrong plucky youth who won’t listen to her father. Yes this might be a clichéd character type but Batson makes these things work very well in his favor. Anne’s headstrong nature is further complicated by the mysterious young man her father and crew find washed ashore; a young boy they come to call Cat. Anne and Cat make a nice duo and young readers in particular will probably find themselves sailing along with both or either character as the story moves along.
Cat knows very little of his past and Batson reveals hints over the course of the story bit by bit. This mystery is part of what makes him an intriguing character. That and the strange voices he hears directing him provide a larger cloud of mystery. What works all the more in the favor of both the character and the story is that readers learn about Cat just as Cat learns about himself.
I did have a bit of a problem with the dialogue; however. Specifically when the characters spoke in “pirate dialect” it didn’t work for me as much as it probably should have. Writing in dialect, regardless of the dialect, is not an easy feat for any writer to pull off successfully. I also thought some of the plot reveals towards the end of the book were a little obvious. Then again, the book is targeted at a slightly younger audience so perhaps that has something to do with it.
As I said, Batson has improved an already impressive set of writing skills with this book. The religious elements are not as pronounced here, although religion and faith do play strong parts in the story. The supernatural elements aren’t quite as strong either, they are more subtle. This is not a bad thing by any means; instead Batson relies on a popular and famous age from the history of our world as the setting.
The packaging has always impressed my on Wayne’s books; his publishers really do right by him. Smart cover design coupled with specially colored pages and text make the reading experience all the more fun; you get a sense the book is special.
Despite my minor complaints, I would still recommend this book to young readers, older readers and anyone looking for a high-seas treasure hunt. Fans of Batson’s Door Within Trilogy will no doubt be pleased by this adventure, which works very nicely as the opening story to a larger tale.
© 2007 Rob H. Bedford
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