Magic Marks the Spot by Caroline Carlson
The Very Nearly Honorable League of Pirates
Published September 10th, 2013 by Harper Collins
Hilary Westfield has always dreamed of being a pirate. She can tread water for thirty-seven minutes. She can tie a knot faster than a fleet of sailors, and she already owns a rather pointy sword.
There's only one problem: The Very Nearly Honorable League of Pirates refuses to let any girl join their ranks of scourges and scallywags.
But Hilary is not the kind of girl to take no for answer. To escape a life of petticoats and politeness at her stuffy finishing school, Hilary sets out in search of her own seaworthy adventure, where she gets swept up in a madcap quest involving a map without an X, a magical treasure that likely doesn't exist, a talking gargoyle, a crew of misfit scallywags, and the most treacherous—and unexpected—villain on the High Seas.
**An ARC was provided by Harper Collins in exchange for an honest review.**
The story starts off with our wonderful main character Hilary, as she write a letter to a famous Pirate organization in hopes of joining their ranks. She promptly receives a letter welcoming her aboard. Further correspondences between the two parties end up bringing to light that Hilary is, in fact, a girl and it so happens that 'The Very Nearly Honorable League of Pirates' has a strict 'no girls policy'. Girls have no place on pirate ships after all! The League end up forwarding Hilary's letter to Miss Pimm's Finishing School (for Delicate Ladies) instead - where all proper young ladies belong, of course. Hilary's parents couldn't be happier that their daughter is off to the best finishing school around, but Hilary will stop at nothing to escape 'proper society'...for a life of piracy.
As an MC, Hilary was impossible not to root for. Her love of adventure (and pirates!), her kind heart and her determination made her stand out in a truly unique way. She was never stubborn or frustrating either, she came off in an entirely positive light for me. My favorite thing about her was how she refused to give upon her dream of being a pirate. She never once thought to let that ''no-girls'' rule stop her either. She was determined to prove that being a girl had nothing to do with one's ability to be a good pirate!
As a whole though, I think all of the characters in Magic Marks the Spot were perfectly quirky and endearing. The Gargoyle, Hilary's main companion was an obvious favorite! His humor and snarky remarks kept a smile on my face throughout. The band of pirates, led by Jasper were always good fun, with their crazy schemes and silly banter. Hilary's Governess and the character development she went through from the beginning of the book until the end was a nice twist as well.
Despite it's promising start, loveable characters and humor, the plot unfortunately left a little something to be desired. Simply put, there just wasn't enough meat to it to hold my interest as much as I would have liked. When I think about all my favorite stories that involve pirates or swashbuckling of any kind, there tends to be a fair share of danger involved - even when those stories are written for a younger audience. It just wasn't the case with Magic Marks the Spot; I never felt any true sense of a deeper sub-plot or that exhilaration that comes with those truly suspenseful scenes. As much as I consider myself a huge character reader, I am also a huge high-fantasy reader so plot development is a biggie too so I was a bit let down in that respect.
Bottom line though, Magic Marks the Spot was still an entertaining and worthwhile read. I'd certainly be on board to reading any sequels that might be in store because I think the story has potential to grow into something truly wonderful. The characters and the humor were major selling points for me and combined with a little girl-power made it all the more enjoyable! I'd recommend it to middle-grade readers with a taste for piracy ;)