Bloody Jack: Mary "Jacky" Faber, Book #1 -- L. A. Meyer Read for the 4th Annual 48-Hour Book Challenge.
When Mary Faber was eight years old, she lost her family to sickness. For the next four years -- she reckons, give or take -- she lived on the streets of London with a small gang of orphans, begging and stealing to survive. When her maybe-future-sweetheart is murdered in an alley, she makes sure that her surrogate family is provided for, cuts her hair off, changes her name to Jack and goes to sea.
Life as a ship's boy on the Dolphin can be hard -- the work, dealing with the crew and the officers and the other ship's boys, all of it -- but it's also the first time in years that Jacky hasn't had to worry about where her next meal will come from. Now she just has to be sure that no-one discovers her secret -- if it comes out, she knows she'll be dropped off at the nearest port, marooned on a deserted island or much worse, hanged.
Yes, yes. I know. I can't believe I'm only just now getting to Bloody Jack, either. I felt that the romance in the middle slowed it down quite a bit, and that the ending was somewhat abrupt*, but other than that... well. Let's just say I'm kicking myself for not having grabbed the whole series when I was at the library yesterday.
It was her voice that did it -- Jacky won me over completely and immediately. I liked that she wasn't perfect, that she liked to wind people up and that she was a bit of a show-off; I loved that she didn't fall into the super-tomboy-tough-girl-adventurer character-type, that she was not a fighter, she didn't turn her nose up at "girl stuff", that she was quick to tears and that she rather reveled in being found attractive as a girl while still understanding the drawbacks of being a woman in her world. I believed in her.
I loved this passage about her bout with sea-sickness:
The next day the wind and seas gets even rougher and the boat adds some new moves in its dance through the waves, which are now like mountains, and we goes up and down and now sideways and over and I don't get up for three days, 'cept to crawl to the head to spew up the vile juice in me gut through one of the holes, then I crawls back to the kip and gets sick again but this time I don't make it to the head and I had to clean it up, which makes me sicker yet. I'm makin' me usual deals with God and hopes that Jesus will come take me in His lovin' arms, but once again He don't come and on the next day Jaimy brings me some food and I eats it and keeps it down, and on the next day I am up and I never gets seasick again.
It made me feel ill, just sitting here in my chair. It's a good thing I wasn't reading in the car. Oh, and the conversation the boys have about Jesus and His tattoos -- for that bit ALONE, the book would be worth reading. I howled. So, so, funny. And, conversely (in that it wasn't at all funny) but similarly (in that it, alone, would make the whole book worthwhile) is the scene where Jacky is first called Bloody Jack. But the book is worth reading for many more reasons than those two. The major one being, as I said, Jacky herself.
I really want to know what happens next. Grrr.
*I realize that there are a bazillion more in the series, but it wasn't so much what happened and where it left Jacky as it was how fast it happened.
Previous Challenge Books: