Genre: fantasy: pirates / lesbians on boats
Queer Representation: cis lesbian, nonbinary
Once upon a time Georgina (George), a minor noble, had a BFF in the form of a lower class little girl who liked to get up to all kinds of adventures. Then George’s father goes and dies and George is sent off to school. No longer bringing in money as a companion, her BFF is dressed up as a boy and sent out to sea to make money for her family.
Fast forward. The kingdom is in distress from taxation and other noble issues. Women are deeply repressed. George tries to help by acting as a low-level spy which everyone seems to know about and no one much cares. There are fancy dresses involved. Anyway. Her brother is kind of an ass and engages her to the eeeeevil prince because Money, and George must of course, say yes because, again, Money.
But lo! Danger is afoot! For the dreaded pirate Cinder roams the oceans and seems to really like attacking this little kingdom. On an outing with the prince, Cinder attacks near the dock and George is taken prisoner on her pirate ship, away from all her fancy dresses and parties and horrible marriage prospects.
Cinder is, of course, the old BFF (if you didn’t get that from the prologue, you don’t read enough lesbian pirate adventures) but is really bitter. And George is really naive. And the prince is really angry. He wants George back so he can publicly murder her and get a lot of sympathy from the people. Cinder wants George to realize how privileged she is. George just wants off the damn boat. Hijinks happen, cannons are fired, dresses are made and destroyed, and Cinder is everyone’s favorite saucy pirate captain trope. HEA and yes, the prince gets what he deserves.
This book was… you know when you go to the fair and you just really want funnel cake? It won’t keep you full but damn it you want it and it’s so damn delicious. This book is funnel cake. Will it stick with you long? Probably not. But it’s a known commodity of tropes and archetypes and it is indeed so damn good. George is a bit irritating at first but she has a reasonable character arc, and Cinder is everything I’d want from a lesbian pirate love interest. The prince is perfectly mustache-twirling evil, the side characters are diverse, and there’s a reasonable amount of backstabbing and criminal overlords. +10 for rollicking adventures on the high seas!
It does have a few drawbacks, like the setting. The Kingdom of Redmere is deeply patriarchal and homophobic, which I don’t generally like in my books since I have to live that every day. It kind of takes away from the ‘escapism’ of fiction. But it’s well done and it does make the ending that much more enjoyable. For a taste:
“It’s not true!” the man shouted from the back of the wagon. “I’ve done nothing wrong!”
“That’s what they all say,” a man near my right shoulder muttered to no one in particular. “I heard they actually found him in bed with another man, No shame. No deniability. Disgusting.” He spat on the ground.
It wasn’t always like this. At least, that was what the old women who sat on stoops and old men who hunched over cups of strong tea would tell you. They’d say that, in their youth, Redmere had still been poor, but people had been free to dress as they pleased and earn a living any way they could, even if women had usually raised the children while men had made most of the money.
Then the king had come. He was a younger son, and he’d poisoned his brother to take the throne. He said the country needed change, a return to something he called “societal order.” Under his rule, laws were passed to define classes and the appropriate roles of men and women, and for a while, it worked. People felt they had a purpose. But the king over-reached, declaring war on neighboring kingdoms, costing Redmere in both gold and lives before he finally retreated to his palace.
But it’s also filled with Deep Lesbian Melodrama, such as lines like:
She put a hand on the wall as she reached the door that led to her bedchamber. Her whole body sagged.
“Sleep well, princess.”
Didn’t she know I hadn’t slept well since the day she’d left me?
And there is dress seduction which is one of my favorite fantasy tropes. If you can seduce a woman while you dress her, you get the A+ gold unicorn badge
Lou helped me dress. The neck and shoulders of the dress were covered in heavy gold embroidery and bright beads and stones that trailed down flowering sleeves. I lifted it, and the front floated away from the back. A line of ribbons dangled from the separate halves on each side.
“Let me do it for you,” she said.
I would be the first to admit I wasn’t very wordy. I’d spent the better part of my life trying not to be noticed in a very small country with little access to what lay beyond its borders.
But even I could tell I was being seduced while being dressed at the same time.
(it’s a great scene so I won’t spoil it for you)
UNCHARTED offers trope-filled lesfic pirate adventure along with fancy dresses and solid nonbinary rep. Whether you’re more of a swashbuckling pirate or a femme princess, you’ll find much to love. See if you can get yourself kidnapped by The Dread Pirate Cinder by buying the book here.