Crossbones by Kimberly Vale
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Never trust a pirate.
The Blood Bell tolls, marking the death of the pirate king and the start of the Trials—a heart-stopping competition where the reward is the Bone Crown. Only one contender can claim the coveted island throne; each will gamble life and limb to win.
Captain. Sister. Maiden.
Csilla Abado yearns to prove her strength to the seasoned pirates who balk at her youth and to her elder sister who has always craved Csilla’s captainship. She will risk everything to become the first pirate queen, no matter the cost.
Dealer. Son. Legacy.
Kane Blackwater wants to leave behind the dirty gold and shady trades he’s made to keep his father’s ship, the Iron Jewel, alive. The Trials represent a new beginning—yet rumors of a secret heir are swirling, threatening his hopes of becoming the pirate king.
Stowaway. Daughter. Storm.
Lorelei Penny longs for nothing more than to avenge her mother’s death. Stowing away on the Iron Jewel was supposed to get her closer to the killer, but instead she finds herself caught up in the deadly battle where loyalty and desire collide.
Csilla. Kane. Lorelei. Each on a mission. The sea, however, has other plans. Dark tides are rising, and if they aren’t careful, they’ll surely drown.
DISCLAIMER: I received an eARC from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
Crossbones is about the power of friendship…and betrayal.
Csilla, Kane, and Lorelei each have their reasons for competing in the Trials to claim the Crown of Bones. Ruling over the pirate islands of Cerulia would bring them each newfound power and security, among other things. But darker forces are at play, aiming to drown the competitors in favor of a more ruthless leader.
Each contestant, tied to the sea, to their hopes of taking up the Crown of Bones. But none of them are prepared to face the consequences of their ambition, especially when it comes to their crews and their futures. Who are they willing to trust to achieve their goals? And more importantly, who must they forsake just to live another day?
This book hit almost all the marks for me.
In all honesty, I’m a sucker for pirates. Nautical adventures are some of my favorites, and there’s nothing quite like some roguish swashbuckling. Throw in a little magic to spice things up, and I’m bound to be interested! In fact, this is one of the easiest ways to please me. At the end of the day, I have simple needs.
But really, the cherry on top is that this book centers both competition and friendship. Csilla, Kane, and Lorelei are all learning that trust is a valuable thing to have in one another, even as they each have their reasons to hold back. Csilla risks forfeiting her dreams of becoming the first Queen of Bones, while Kane risks losing that newfound friendship with the truth of his past. And Lorelei? She risks her life, time and again, for the secrets surrounding her heritage, secrets that have been kept from her for years.
I absolutely loved watching these characters decide what mattered most to them, and what mattered to the islands of Cerulia. And all this coming from pirates? The sort of scoundrel you should never trust?
It just makes me love it more. I’ll take an arc about terrible people doing the right thing any time, thanks!
“Just be careful you don’t cross bones too far or they’re bound to break.”
That said, I do wish Crossbones spent a little more time on those characters. Our POV cast is excellent, with full histories and personalities on the page, but the supporting cast suffers in turn. Characters like Rhoda, Flynn, and Nara (among others) are weak in comparison sometimes, lacking a sense of depth and dimensionality to really bring them to life. I have so many questions about them, most of which I doubt will be answered, and it is a bit frustrating.
Doubly frustrating, too, is that the origins of their friendships with the POV characters are sometimes fuzzy. Sure, we know they almost all grew up as pirates. That much is established with ease. But it’s sometimes difficult to see what keeps them together. In Flynn’s case, all I see is the reasons Csilla would rather be apart from him. He relies so heavily on jokes that his true intentions fall into obscurity, which makes him seem uncaring, like he’s only in the Trials for his own amusement. And as for Nara, my favorite supporting character, I can’t fully understand why she and Csilla are friends. There’s a basic compatibility that makes sense, and their connection as pirates of the Scarlet Maiden, but what is it that makes her and Csilla close enough to be captain and first mate? That’s an incredible, important level of trust to share.
If you’re going to give me the power of friendship in a book, you need to be prepared to deliver on all fronts, not just between primary characters.
Anyone who likes Pirates of the Caribbean is probably going to have a good time with this.
After all, it’s classic pirate adventuring! A little bit of ocean battling, a little bit of ruthless thievery, a little bit of deadly swordplay… You get the idea. Sprinkle a little magic on top, though, along with a brewing storm of truly divine proportions, and you have the first installment in the Kingdom of Bones trilogy!
Even better, though, is that Crossbones is already out on shelves. It released on October 5th, and it makes a great read for this stage of fall, where summer still lingers but there’s still a chill lying ahead. ☠️
CW: violence, gore, loss of a loved one, slavery, smoking, alcoholism, child death mention