Beneath Black Sails by Clare Sager

SPFBO: Beneath Black Sails by Clare Sager

Welcome to the Semi-Finals stage of SPFBO 6! As you know, we already cut 25 books from our batch of 30 and announced our semi-finalists. Check out my SPFBO 6 Phase 1 page for more info!

Following the first semi-finalist review, our next up is Beneath Black Sails by Clare Sager. We won’t be adding our ratings just yet (I’ll update this post later) to keep the race to the finalist spot interesting. The order of the reviews within a post will be the following: first will be the person who picked the book as a semi-finalist (in this case Belle), and then the others in alphabetical order.

So, without further ado, let’s take a closer look at our first semi-finalist!

About the Book
Series: Beneath Black Sails #1Genre: Fantasy
Date of Publishing: March 30th 2020Publisher: self-published
Book Blurb
The Dragon's Banker by Scott Warren

Sometimes it takes a pirate to catch a pirate.

With weather magic on her side, Lady Vice is the bane of the high seas, but she isn’t captain of her own ship. Yet. If she can persuade her captain to give her a command, she’ll be in charge of her own fate.

To pay off his family’s debts, Knigh Blackwood hunts pirates for the Royal Navy. And he’s damn good at it. When the bounty on Lady Vice increases, he’s determined to make her face justice, even if that means using unorthodox methods.

Forced to work together, neither can deny their mutual attraction. As they face battles at sea and schemes aboard their ship, they discover hints about a long-lost treasure that could be the answer to both their problems.

But treasure isn’t the only thing buried. Secrets best forgotten lie in wait that could blast them apart. And the closer Vice and Knigh grow, the greater the threat – to her freedom and to his family. Because for one to succeed, the other must fail.

If you love cunning heroes, feisty heroines, and enemies to lovers romance, you’ll love this new adult fantasy series that’s perfect for fans of Sarah J Maas and Miranda Honfleur.

Review

Belle

Beneath Black Sails is such a fun, enjoyable read and I loved every second of it. It ticked all of my boxes, and definitely left me wanting more. 

Sager has a fantastic writing style – it was clear and engaging, and definitely hit my funny bone more than once. The world building is deftly handled, and I loved how it was woven into the story. The descriptions are very evocative and immersive – I definitely wouldn’t mind visiting this alternate history and checking things out for a while. The plot twists were nicely done, the final one sets up the sequel perfectly and at no point was I left confused about what was happening. 

The characters are all well fleshed out, with their own individual voices and personalities. I am quite fond of both main characters, and absolutely loved their enemies-to-lovers romance. The chemistry and snark between Vice, dastardly pirate, and Knigh, noble pirate hunter, is off the charts, and the development of their relationship is one of the highlights. You just know there are going to be all kinds of fireworks from the very first time they meet. The personal growth they both go through as the story progresses kept me hooked, and I look forward to seeing how they develop further in the next book.

The secondary characters are interesting, and have their own ambitions and motives. FitzRoy makes a great villain and foil to Vice’s ambition and oh boy do I wish I could have tipped him over the side of the ship. Perry is a great companion for Vice, especially as someone who has known her since she became a pirate and doesn’t let her get away with any nonsense. I also, predictably, love the heck out of Barnacle, who might be one of my favourite ship cats.    

I highly recommend Beneath Black Sails to anyone who wants a fun, rollicking adventure on the high seas, with a healthy dose of intrigue and shenanigans throughout.

Jen

Benath Black Sails was a lot of fun, falling in the pirate fantasy romance genre. One of the better pirate fantasy romances I have read with a really likeable sassy and clever heroine and the hero was also great.

Knigh (I’m sorry but I don’t like this name) is a pirate hunter out to capture the notorious Lady Vice, who has a rather large bounty on her head, one of which he hopes to use to pay off some family debts incurred by his father (who pretty much drove their family to ruin because of them) so, when the opportunity presents itself to broker a deal with the Captain of her ship, Knigh uses the opportunity to his advantage.

I had a blast in the first part of this book especially, as she outsmarted him several times and the play off each other was just great and full of humorous moments. I especially loved the scene in dock and her salute. She had a great voice- managed to be self-assured fun-loving imp while keeping that don’t get to close to me vibe in the mix.

There were also a few ship battles- enough to satisfy my love of them, and a few good side characters (Barnacle stole most the scenes she was in and I adored Perry) but on the whole the cast feels somewhat small and more focused on just the two main leads.

A few minor quibbles. Some of the sentences felt awkward and at times, I had to reread them to be clear on what was being said or who was talking.

The eventual break-up was abrupt. This might be a little bit because we never see the connection between his ex-fiancé and himself and he seemed rather blasé about the whole thing until this moment when he wasn’t anymore. I am trying to stay vague on the details because of spoilers which btw 9 times out of 10 there is a break-up in the romance formula so that part wasn’t a spoiler even if it sounds like one. 

I am still not a fan of in-world cuss words and probably never will be. Even when they work as a double purpose to remind you that the Fae are involved in this world. I found the numerous “by the wild hunt” a bit distracting by the time the book ended.

The end is satisfying, it doesn’t close all the pages but leaves you in a spot where even if you didn’t move on, you’d be happy enough.

I enjoyed this and would love to continue on with the series.

Nick

For some reason fantasy books that take place on the high seas just really appeal to me. Maybe it’s because it’s not the usual medieval kingdom setting that I often get tired of, but tales about pirates or maritime adventure are always a welcome diversion for me as a reader. Beneath Black Sails is just that type of book and I certainly enjoyed the story that unfolded between its covers.

Much like Robin Hobb’s Liveship Traders series, this one not only deals with a seafaring story line, but also contains some pretty cool elements of magic. Lady Vice is a witch of sorts who was born with fairy blood. Part of this heritage allows her to control certain aspects of the ocean and wind.  Needless to say this comes in very handy if you are trying to outrun the local military personnel who are always trying to catch you and claim the bounty that is on your head.

The characters were a very real strong point for me when it came to this book. Each had a very compelling and detailed history that we get to know as the story progresses. Some we even get surprised by as there are a number of twists that made this an unpredictable read for me.  

Yes there is a significant amount of romance in this book, which I’m not usually too big a fan of in my fantasy reads. There were a couple of times where the sexual description did get kind of graphic and let’s just say there was no nuance involved and things got pretty heavy. However, I was so into the main story that even that didn’t lessen my enjoyment too much or cause enough of a distraction to make me want to stop reading.

In the end, I liked Beneath Black Sails a lot and Clare Sager has crafted a story that will appeal to many different readers and tastes. The intrigue and adventure keep the narrative rolling right along like the rapid seas that are this story’s backdrop. I recommend giving it a try and experiencing something that is not the same old, same old fantasy fare.

Peter

Beneath Black Sails was a book I was really looking forward to reading, I mean it’s a story about Pirates and fantasy mixed together and that was enough to really pique my interest in this story. Coupled with an enthusiastic review by one of SPFBO colleagues, I went into this story full of curiosity.

I am going to start with what I didn’t like, which was the romance between Knigh Blackwood and Lady Vice. It felt a bit forced and while obviously integral to the plot, it felt a bit rushed but there were so many more pluses to this story.

Firstly, it is first and foremost a story about sailing, I mean traditional sailing in a rigged ship. There is something wonderful about the glory days of the Royal Navy that the author hits home wonderfully in this book.  The author clearly knows what they are talking about, and I salute them to a job well done here. Having read a few books where sailing and fantasy are involved, this is one of the best.

The two main characters were well defined, and interesting to read.  The dialogue was good, in fact entertaining at times, and this made reading it all the more enjoyable. The magic system is worth noting, Lady Vice has access to Weather magic, this was one of the best aspects of the book for me, it was well defined, had rules and played it’s part brilliantly in the plot.  A good magic system can work wonders in a fantasy book, it really worked here.

So if you want a thrilling, high seas adventure with pirates, brilliant sailing writing, a defined and cool magic system with some great characters. Then look no further than Beneath Black Sails by Clare Sager, a book worthy of being an SPFBO semi finalist.

Timy

I admit, when Belle announced her semi-finalist (which did not come as a surprise, really), Beneath Black Sails, I had to brace myself. Not because I expected it to be bad (I know Belle better than that), but because books with a romance plot in the focus aren’t something I pick up too often. Nor am I a big fan of nautical fantasy in general. So, I had to keep an open mind this being SPFBO and all that, but I also prepared to be the bad guy once again. Luckily for me, I was in for a nice surprise.

I pretty much agree with the others. ost is slow There is definitely a lot to like about Beneath Black Sails, especially if you like your fantasy populated by pirates. Our main two characters are Lady Vice, the infamous pirate queen and Knigh, the captain of the Navy. By the way, I agree with Jen, I didn’t like his name either. So, we have two protagonists with completely different personalities. Needless to say, all kinds of fun ensues as they try to intercept each other in their quests. It’s definitely entertaining to watch them circling each other and as they become lovers from enemies. If I had to chose, probably this is the romance trope I like the best. I mean, sure, it’s predictable what is going to happen, but it’s still fun. But what really won me over was that while the romance itself was a bit predictable, there is plenty of twists to keep you at the edge of your seat.

As for the characters, I liked Knigh and his character arc throughout the book. Vice, on the other hand, I had some mixed feelings about. At one hand I liked and admired her for her standards, but on the other hand, at times I found myself frustrated with the level of recklessness and abandon she put herself in situations, seemingly without thinking. I felt a deep sympathy for Perri who had to put up with her.

As the others mentioned, the secondary characters in Beneath Black Sails are just as intriguing and well-drawn. I think my personal “favorite” was the Duke of Mercia. I’m sure he is a very charming fellow… And let’s not even talk about FitzRoy. The narcissistic bastard.

In terms of criticism, while the writing is really good and this book is a super quick read, I felt like the dialogues could have been a bit smoother. I also would have liked just a touch more world-building. We know there are people who are Fae-touched or Fea-blooded, but not much explanation about how this came to be. Though Vice’s weather-based magic is definitely cool. But as Beneath Black Sails is only the first book in the series, we might get more on this in later installments.

Overall, I can see why Belle picked Beneath Black Sails as her semi-finalist as it’s an entertaining adventure full of twists, magic and a burning romance on the high seas.

The Dragon's Banker by Scott Warren

For more SPFBO content, please visit my SPFBO 6 Phase 1 page!

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