Knowing that I love a good story that takes place on the high seas my friend Jacob recommended me The Pirates of Alnari by Dan Eldredge. As Jacob described it to me: It’s like pirates meets Game of Thrones.
I was instantly intrigued. I love pirates. I love GoT. And with famous last words I said, “What could possibly go wrong?”
Nothing if you’re the reader… Or everything, if you’re one of the characters in Alnari…
There’s a few ways the comparison to Game of Thrones is legit. Eldredge breaks his chapters up by character POV, though sometimes there’s added insight that the POV character might not actually have. Those little blips are far and few between and don’t really detract from the overall value or enjoyment of the story. The other way it’s comparable to GoT is that things go from bad to worse to even worse to even worse, and you find yourself enjoying every little bit of it. In some ways Pirates of Alnari is more enjoyable than GoT in that there’s no character whose POV I found annoying. (Does anyone like a Sansa chapter?). It’s unlike GoT as there’s not really any magic or magical creatures at all and this story is focused more on action and less on political intrigue. Not to say there isn’t intrigue, though. There is, just not as much. The cast of characters is also more limited in this story.
For the most part in Alnari we follow Martyn and Arycke, two nobles who get themselves in a bit of trouble and are looking to buy passage to another country on the continent. Quickest way is by sea, but there are Alnari pirates lurking about. Luckily they get passage on a warship and Alnari pirates don’t have the gall to attack an Isaliani warship… or so everyone thought. Things go from bad to worse for the two young noblemen as the ship gets attacked and they’re left stranded on enemy territory with what’s left of the crew. And things only get worse from there.
Arycke is your typical, young dashing nobleman who enjoys the game of bedding women while Martyn is a bit more earthy and more noble in his virtues. He’s also a bit gruffer than Arycke, making him probably my favorite character in the novel. Besides those two there’s also an old Magistrate and his grand-daughter, Starrisa, aboard the ship. We don’t learn a ton about Starrisa until the end and even then she’s a little enigmatic, but she’s not a damsel in distress character (thank god) and shows some grit herself when the time comes. The only other major female character is Lady Eldamere who enjoys leading her own troops into battle.
There’s plenty of bloodshed and action but it’s not overdone. There’s enough political intrigue and some sex to spread the action out. The fight scenes are also well written. You really get a feel for the brutality of these battles and almost feel as tired as the characters as they stagger over the pile of corpses or slip on decks slick with blood.
The ending is fairly tied up except for two characters who end the story on the run. I can see Dan bringing them back in a sequel but wonder if we’d see any of the other major characters or if their story is over. I don’t want to mention names as there’s a lot of death, but you’ll know what I mean if you read the book (and you should).
All in all, this is a great debut book by a fellow New Englander. If you like fantasy stories without all the magic and sorcery and/or enjoy a good tale on the high seas then you should give Pirates of Alnari a try. It’s available as an eBook and Trade Paperback.