Pirates of the Caribbean meets Harry Potter – that pretty much sums up On Stranger Tides by Tim Powers. Set during the heyday of Caribbean piracy (the early 1700′s), the book mixes fact and fantasy. On his way from Europe to Jamaica to right a family wrong, the ship of puppeteer John Chandagnac is waylaid by pirates. Aboard the same ship are the fetching Elizabeth Hurwood and her mysterious scientist father who is set on harnessing the magical forces still active in the New World. The choices that John makes in order to try to save Elizabeth from a gruesome fate lead him unwillingly into a life of piracy and encounters with Blackbeard, Stede Bonnet, Anne Bonny, and almost every other pirate active during that time.
There are plenty of plot twists, but the storytelling remains consistent. The book is engaging, but Powers’ long sentences and detailed descriptions keep the book from being a page turner. Reading the book gives you the feeling of being on the rolling deck of a ship, struggling with the characters who are all trying to maintain their balance.
Summing up: A swashbuckling yarn – 4.5/5 stars.
p.s. On Stranger Tides is the basis for Pirates of the Caribbean 4 – fodder for yet another book vs. movie discussion!