Saturday, May 25, 2024

Historical fiction trendspotting: Sail the world with these recent and upcoming pirate novels

Ahoy there! Has anyone else noticed the number of historical fiction about pirates appearing lately? There are enough of them to warrant some notice. Besides the exciting storylines, another attractive angle to these books is that they're anchored in historical settings you don't often see.  Many of them deal with female pirates: some completely fictional, others based in legend. Below are eight that came out in the past year or so.  Looking ahead to the future, you'll see more, including Ariel Lawhon's next novel The Pirate Queen, about 16th-century Irish chieftain Grace O'Malley; and Rachel Rueckert's The Determined, about Anne Bonny and Mary Read, which is out from Kensington in 2025.

The Ballad of Jacquotte Delahaye by Briony Cameron
Briony Cameron's debut novel is based on the legend of Jacquotte Delahaye, a biracial woman of color from Saint-Domingue who reportedly became a pirate captain in the 17th-century Caribbean.  Atria, June 2024.

The Adventures of Amina Al-Sirafi by Shannon Chakraborty
Immerse yourself in the political and cultural world of the Indian Ocean in the 12th century, full of bustling international trade and dangerous threats, in Chakraborty's historical fantasy novel. First in a series, it sees the title character—a widow, mother, and former pirate—tempted into one more adventure at sea.  Harper Voyager, February 2023.

Deep as the Sky, Red as the Sea by Rita Chang-Eppig
The South China Sea in the 19th century is the setting for this debut about a pirate queen of legend, Shek Yeung, and the risks she takes to solidify power in a patriarchal world. Bloomsbury, May 2023.

Saltblood by Francesca de Tores
De Tores (who also writes as Francesca Haig) dives into the life story of Mary Read, who recounts her adventurous life, from her childhood, when she was raised as a boy, through her later years as a notorious pirate.  Bloomsbury UK, April 2024.

A True Account by Katherine Howe
Howe (The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane) writes an exciting tale about Hannah Masury, an indentured servant who flees 18th-century Boston and dons a disguise as a cabin boy about a pirate ship. In a parallel timeline, a 1930s-era researcher uncovers Hannah's story. Henry Holt, November 2023.

The Ghost Ship by Kate Mosse
Part three in her Joubert Family Chronicles, Mosse's The Ghost Ship tells a story about a vessel of secrets, romance, and piracy that moves from Europe to the Barbary Coast in the 1620s. Minotaur, July 2023.

Seaborne by Nuala O'Connor
The swashbuckling tale of Anne (Coleman) Bonny, a young woman from Ireland's County Cork who  immigrates to America in the early 18th century with her family and turns to a life of the sea on a quest for freedom and adventure. New Island Books, April 2024.

If the Tide Turns by Rachel Rueckert
Based on the legend of pirate Samuel Bellamy, Rueckert's debut is an adventurous star-crossed love story about Sam, an orphaned sailor from Cape Cod, and the woman he loves, Maria Brown, whose affluent family refuses to entertain Sam as a suitor for her. Kensington, March 2024.


  1. Katharine O5:04 AM

    I'd read them all! Starting with the Kate Mosse whose novels I've enjoyed for many years. And a shout out to "Cinnamon and Gunpowder" by Eli Brown, 2013, Farrar, Straus & Giroux, featuring the ruthless pirate Mad Hannah Mabbot (fiction) and very food-centered. Thanks for the list!

  2. Have you read Bonny & Read by Julie Walker (2022)?

    1. That one was new to me, but it definitely fits the trend!

    2. it's on my tbr list and in my audible library!