Author: L.A. Meyer
Series: Bloody Jack #4
Genre: Historical Fiction
Source: Purchased (Pre-Ordered)
The British crown has placed a price on Jacky's head, and so she returns to the Lawson Peabody School for Young Girls in Boston to lay low. But laying low isn't in the cards for a spunky lass who finds trouble even when she's not looking for it. A school outing goes awry as Jacky and her classmates are abducted and forced into the hold of the Bloodhound, a ship bound for the slave markets on the Barbary Coast. All of Jacky's ingenuity, determination, and plain old good luck will be put to the test as she rallies her classmates to fight together to avoid being sold on the auction block in this new installment of the Bloody Jack Adventures.
I don't need a reason to read this series. In fact, I constantly look for excuses to take a break from my TBR pile and settle in with one of my favorite Jacky moments. The Bloody Jack books are my books of choice when I need something to get me out of a book slump or to read when I'm feeling a little down because without a doubt, Jacky is the most hilarious heroine that I have ever had the pleasure to read about. I am featuring the Bloody Jack books over at Ruby's Reads next week for her Book Bully Event, and I realized that I haven't reviewed some of the books in the series! *Gasp* Well, I'm not going to get to review them all before my feature goes up, but I can use it as an excuse to get my fill of my favorite salty sailor lass!
As for In the Belly of the Bloodhound (henceforth to be called IBB) has got to be the best Jacky Faber/Bloody Jack book yet! When we last left Jacky, she was sailing through the bloody and war torn seas of the Battle of Trafalgar, having just witnessed several of her friends being killed by war and leaving her love, Jaimy, on the deck of a smoking battleship. Somehow, our darling Jacky manages to get herself back to Boston where she resumes her studies at the Lawson Peabody School for Young Girls, so that she can hide from the British officers who would take her to England...she is after all worth 100 pounds sterling to British Intelligence. However, things don't go as planned when Jacky gets home (when do they ever for this crazy girl) and she and her sisters-in-arms are kidnapped by the very people that have promised to keep them safe.
Oh my god. WHAT an amazing book! I thought I'd seen the best from Jacky in Under the Jolly Roger (Which is in fact, one of my top 3 YA books of all time) but believe me, this series goes to a whole new level in IBB. Those tearful, gossipy twits from The Curse of the Blue Tattoo? GONE. Well not at first, but eventually they grow out of their frail "female" forms to become these dramatic, ferocious, amazing harpies that I can really love and respect. There is such a dramatic amount of character growth in this book that you wouldn't recognize the girls if you took a picture of them at the beginning and end. Even Clarissa Worthington Howe, the villain from CBT has her redeeming moments and you actually *gag* start to like her. My favorite thing about this series is that all of the characters are three-dimensional. No, they aren't all important, and they don't all get a lot of screen time, but when they are front and center, they all shine as individual characters. From the lowliest cabin boy to the Captain of the ship, each person has goals, drives, desires, and PERSONALITY. I love it. It's almost impossible to describe because I seriously haven't found such animated and truly life-like characters in any other book or series to date. ANY of them...ok...maybe Harry Potter...but I can't think of anything else that even comes close.
And the plot! The plot is so fantastic! It's so clever and original! How many historical fiction novels feature upper-class American girls being kidnapped to be sold into slavery? Exactly! Then when you think about it, it is a totally believable and terrifying premise! I thought IBB did an excellent job portraying the horrors that slaves had to face as they crossed the Atlantic while bearing the abuse of the slave-owners. At the same time, the book isn't depressing or dark. It acknowledges the pain of the past and tries to help heal some of the damage that had been done, all the while keeping you alternating between laughing so much your stomach hurts and wanting to literally carve out the slaver's eyes with spoons. I also loved that Jacky got to share her life story with the other girls of the Lawson Peabody. The main reason they fought in the second book was because they had no idea what she had gone through and how hard her life has been. It was great to see all of the girls going through such hard times together and having them grow to be friends. Okay...maybe not friends in some cases...but at least polite frenemies instead of cat-fighting brawlers.
L.A. Meyer continuously amazes me with the depth and intensity of his writing style. He can switch from spirit-lifting joy to soul-crushing sadness in the space of a paragraph, all the while creating characters so life-like that you know them better than you know your own family. It's impossible not to identify with Jacky as she capers about, bumbling through life and using her wits and charms to better her situation. She's so REAL and down to earth. She's unlike any other female character I've come across. You want to laugh at her when she's whining...instead of strangling her like most YA MC's. She's just so like-able that you want her as your best friend, your confidant, and probably your downfall. As Jacky says "I am so very hard on my friends." But that's okay Jacky, we love you anyways.