I look forward to TimeRiders novels obsessively. I can think of very few series that have given me half as much pleasure as this one. They might be targeted at youngsters but they find the youngster in me and it can’t get enough of them. The countdown is on, though. The series will end with the conclusion of the ninth book next year. With so little time left, this seventh novel provides a welcome swashbuckling interlude between the staggering revelations of City of Shadows and the ominous threat of danger promised in The Mayan Prophecy, to be published on 1 August.
Obviously, it barely needs saying that no reader should start a series such as this with Book 2, let alone Book 7. If you haven’t read the others then please read no further as spoilers are inevitable. Instead go back to the beginning and relish the treat you have in store as you catch up with the adventures of our TimeRiders Liam, Maddy and Sal with their seven-foot support units Bob and Becks.
If you are familiar with the series then read on…
This seventh book is slightly different. It takes a step back, giving our team (or at least part of it) a distraction from what they have learned in the previous novel. Now headquartered in late 19th-century London, the team are on their own, free of their mission and apart from their past. Time travel now opens up new opportunities for Liam, Maddy and Sal, plus latest member Rashim. Instead of using time travel to put things right, there is now no place that they can’t go to, no time that they can’t visit and all in the name of fun. For a change.
For reasons known only to Maddy, the TimeRiders choose to go back to 1666 to take a look at the Great Fire of London in action. Although marginally better than the Plague of 1665, the Great Fire is not the safest of environments and before you can say ‘Shiver me timbers’ Liam and Rashim are pressganged into the crew of pirates Caribbean-bound. All Maddy, Bob and the others can do is hope for their friends to stay still long enough to be detected and picked up. Unfortunately, a pirate’s life is not ideal for their purposes. Just as well, then, that Liam and Rashim discover they have a knack for privateering.
While The Pirate Kings contributes relatively little to the the TimeRiders story, it adds a great deal to character development, especially for Liam. He flourishes in his new life but he also has to come to terms with himself as pirate, killer, thief. There are lessons here about the past, though. Alex Scarrow expertly weaves in themes of slavery, hypocrisy, greed. It’s good to get to know Rashim a little bit better, too. He knows better than anyone the need to change the future.
Maddy, Bob and Becks have little to do in The Pirate Kings and I did indeed miss their presence but this book is so much fun. Not only for us, either. Liam as a Pirate King, learning to swash his buckle on the 17th-century high seas, is a joy to behold.
It’s not fun for them all, though. Sal, the quietest member of the group, is undergoing a crisis after the revelations of the previous novel. With Liam possibly lost by choice, here is her own opportunity to find some own answers, not in the past but in the future. While Bob and Becks as well as Maddy take a bit of a back seat in The Pirate Kings, it’s good to learn more about Sal, who is such an enigmatic, curious and saddened soul.
I have had such a fun time reading The Pirate Kings. The pirates’ life is brought to life by Alex Scarrow. Few concessions are made for a young readership. There is violence and gore and the threat of even worse. Scarrow doesn’t condescend to his readers in the least. What he does do is make us care about his characters and want to find out more about the history that they experience. I long for TimeRiders 8 although I fear troublesome times ahead as this wonderful story moves towards its conclusion.
Other Alex Scarrow novels:
The Legend of Ellie Quin – review and interview with Alex Scarrow
The Candle Man
My tribute to TimeRiders on My Favourite Books