I read this fantastic little book a long while ago, but got around to review it only now due to my increasingly frenzied schedule. I had to review it, as I’d loved it so much that I wanted to push it to as many people as I can.
The moment I came across this book in Goodreads, I wanted nothing more than to read it in one go. I find little girls who defy social convention and lady-like standards quite fascinating. And this book has a girl protagonist who wants to be a pirate!
Although, it is primarily children’s literature, it is by no means limited to that niche. The prose is uncomplicated but beautiful. And it has enough humour to tickle anyone.
Our heroine is Hilary Westfield. She’s a little daughter of a noble in a fictional land who dreams of becoming a pirate. Irony is that her father is admiral of the Royal Navy and detests pirates. Since, Magic Marks The Spot is juvenile fiction, “pirate” here means noble savages who love to go on adventures and explore unknown lands.
Hilary’s High Society parents are, understandably, horrified by Hilary’s decision. They in turn horrify Hilary by sending her to Miss Pimm’s Finishing School for Delicate Ladies.
Hilary, however, does not want to be a delicate lady. She aspires to be a pirate, after all. And pirates ain’t delicate, mind ye. So she plans an escape from the school with the help of her new friend, Claire.
She comes across a “freelance” pirate and leaves for her first voyage. Not only she has to go all piratical on the ship, she’s also given the responsibility of deciphering a map which apparently leads to the largest treasure in the world. Will she be up to it?
This is quite a light-hearted book. So whilst there are many battles and scuffles in the novel, there is scarcely any violence. And every fight ends without any bloody injury, or indeed, any particular injury, to anyone.
Hilary might be the heroine of the story, but for me, the real star is her pet gargoyle. Not only the gargoyle can talk, he also has a sense of humour. And he also shares Hilary’s enthusiasm for ships, voyages and piracy. Initially installed in her room above the door, Hilary takes him with her to the Finishing School for his company.
The best thing I liked about the book was its incessantly frivolous tone. Even when the gargoyle isn’t in the picture, the book rarely, if ever, gets serious. The book actually reminded me of Barry Hughart’s brilliant Bridge of Birds – a book similarly flippant but noticeably more adult-oriented. Read it too, if you haven’t already.
All in all, this is must read for pretty much anyone. No matter how young – or old – you are, take my word, you’re going to love this book.