May 26, 2011

Steel by Carrie Vaughn

Release Date: March 1, 2011
Publisher: HarperTeen
Pages: 304
Series: n/a
Review Source: Library

Synopsis: (from Goodreads)
Sixteen-year-old Jill has fought in dozens of fencing tournaments, but she has never held a sharpened blade. When she finds a corroded sword piece on a Caribbean beach, she is instantly intrigued and pockets it as her own personal treasure.

The broken tip holds secrets, though, and it transports Jill through time to the deck of a pirate ship. Stranded in the past and surrounded by strangers, she is forced to sign on as crew. But a pirate's life is bloody and brief, and as Jill learns about the dark magic that brought her there, she forms a desperate scheme to get home—one that risks everything in a duel to the death with a villainous pirate captain.

Time travel, swordplay, and romance combine in an original high-seas adventure from New York Times bestseller Carrie Vaughn.

My Thoughts:
The cover of this book promises “a swashbuckling tale of magic, romance, and pirates,” but I’m afraid it failed to deliver (except the pirates: there are definitely tons of those!). ‘Steel’ is a perfectly good adventure story. In fact, for a historical tale about life of a pirate ship it was incredibly enjoyable. There were a few interesting points made about the pirating lifestyle, and some action sequences and swordfights were, indeed, swashbuckling.

Where I thought this book lacked was the magic and the romance. On the magic end of things we have Jill dragged into the past because she brings a broken sword tip into the ocean. She proceeds to take part in a real live pirate adventure until certain things are brought back into balance. The sword has some magical properties and there’s that bit of time travel, but that’s where the magic/fantasy angle ends. As for the romance, there... really wasn’t any. It’s not that every book needs to have romance, and in fact I think this book would have been fine without any romance at all. What irked me is that I was promised romance right on the cover, and the book failed to deliver. Sure, there’s a cute friendship between Jill and Henry, and near the end of the book it attempts to be something more. Having their relationship be anything more than a friendship just didn’t really seem necessary, and if either the author or the publisher wanted romance to be a big draw for the book it should have been a lot bigger of a plot line right from the beginning.

Jill was a likable enough character. I enjoyed her fencing ability and her strength, both physical strength and her strength of character. Henry was sweet, and there were lots of supporting characters who, while only being very tiny bit players, held their own. I definitely didn’t dislike this book, I just think the story would have worked better as a middle grade adventure story, rather than a YA fantasy adventure.


Find Steel by Carrie Vaughn on Goodreads, Book Depository, &


  1. We've heard others say more or less the same, which is disappointing given what a great idea (and cover) this book has!!

    BUT. A 3-star book is still pretty good. We'd like to read it at some point.

  2. Sorry this one didn't work out for you. The cover looks promising and the pirate angle sounds fun. Seems everyone is disappointed with this book. There are a lot of other good historical fiction books out there now thankfully!

  3. I agree. I really liked the main character and it was so interesting with the fencing and pirates and all. But the romance was a no-go for me since I saw Jill and Henry as more sibling-like than kiss buddies. And you're right --it would have been an awesome middle grade adventure!
    The Book Swarm

  4. the cover is beautiful, great premise. i think my prob. w/ Carrie's books is that their kind of slow for me, but i always love how unique her books are from pirates to dragons :)

  5. I truly dislike when a book promises something but fails to deliver on its promise. Granted, I've never considered pirates to be horribly romantic, so maybe the author had problems working around the pirate image? It's a thought. I hope you have better luck on your next book!


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