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Off the Shelves: 'Cursed Pirate Girl' rare literary treasure for a graphic novel

POSTED: May 19, 2013 1:00 a.m.

I rarely re-read books once I’m finished with them. But every now and then, I come across a published work that not only do I want to revisit, but I feel as if I have to in order to pick up on things I am positive I missed the first read through. One of those books is Volume One of the graphic novel series, “Cursed Pirate Girl.” It is written and illustrated by Jeremy Bastian, whose artwork is so intricate and meticulous that unless you sit with a magnifying glass for days on end, you are bound to miss his gorgeous details on the first pass.

A large part of the reason one may not pay attention to the detail the first time is because it’s a fun, fast-paced story.

“Cursed Pirate Girl” transports readers to Port Elizabeth, Jamaica, in 1728, where we are introduced to two young girls with very contrasting lives. Apollonia is the governor’s daughter who leads a sheltered life of luxury and pomp, and the titular Pirate Girl lives under the docks and gets by solely with wit and bravado.

Pirate Girl is planning to journey to the Omerta Seas in search of her lost father, one of the five notorious pirate captains who command the seas. But she does not know which of the captains her father may be. When Apollonia becomes fascinated by the Pirate Girl and acts like a swashbuckling ruffian at her birthday party, Apollonia’s father is infuriated and sends a hit man to dispose of the source, the Pirate Girl herself. With the aid of a smart-mouthed parrot and two armored swordfish, Pirate Girl sets out on an adventure filled with underwater spirits, unsavory cutthroats and fantastical creatures the likes of which have never been seen before.

Inked in black and white, the imagery of the graphic compilation is lavishly lush and reminiscent of whimsical Victorian artwork such as John Tenniel of “Alice in Wonderland” fame. Much like the Lewis Carroll novel, the adventure follows a young girl down a “rabbit hole” — in this case, riding a fish to the bottom of the ocean — and takes us to a surreal world. There, the reader finds swordfish that look like knights in armor, pirates appear to be anything from human to nightmarish creatures, and the most effective weapon against blade-swinging thugs is one’s own cunning.

The Pirate Girl is spunky, clever and eternally optimistic, even after a gruesome encounter causes her to lose something important. She is a fun character, much like a smaller, female variation of Jack Sparrow from the Pirates of the Caribbean films, although perhaps more aware and forthright.

The other characters tend to center their actions and thoughts around her, either providing insight or obstacles for the protagonist. All the character designs are inventive and distinctive. No one merely blends into the background, and it is a marvel to take in the scenes of various crowds and pirate camaraderie.

“Cursed Pirate Girl” is only the beginning as Volume One is comprised of the first five chapters of the graphic series. To wait for the upcoming volumes is excruciating, as readers will be swept away by the artwork and story. They will be waiting ravenously for the subsequent volumes to follow. This graphic novel is truly a rare treasure any adventure lover should hunt for.

Alison Reeger Cook is a Gainesville resident whose Off the Shelves book review appears every other week in Sunday Life. Know of a good book to review? Email her to tell her about it. Her column appears biweekly and on gainesvilletimes.com/life


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