Saturday, August 20, 2011

Water Witch by Nene Adams

Publisher:              P.D. Publishing

Swashbuckling pirates – supernatural occurrences – lost treasure – lusty lovers – adventure on the land and seas – what more could anyone possibly want from a book?

Bess O'Bedlam, known as the Water Witch, has been hunting for years to discover the legendary treasure left behind by Fancy Tom Carew, who killed his whole crew so that he wouldn't have to share his hoard of gold, silver and jewels. As she has led her fleet of five pirate ships on raids around the Caribbean, her goal has been to follow the clues leading to the last resting place of Carew's loot laden ship, the “Deceiver.” On the island of Antigua she discovers the most intriguing clue of all, a tattoo on the shoulder of the fiery and beautiful Marguerite De Vries.

Margo is an accomplished thief who has no interest in going to sea, but Bess is a pirate who has no problem with kidnapping and keeping her a prisoner. Despite tumultuous fights, the two find themselves drawn to the vibrancy that radiates from each woman. What follows is a string of adventures including battles at sea, incantations and spirit visitations, and a wild Spanish woman with a nasty temper and quick dagger. All of this serves to bring the women closer together and the treasure hunt eventually turns into a race against time when Bess and Margo realize there is more at stake than just finding the riches. The charmed tattoo draws them to an island where all of their dreams should be fulfilled, but instead a nightmare begins to unfurl, culminating in a race across the water and a battle that is nothing short of epic and mystical. Whether or not Bess and Margo can have a future together literally becomes a fight between life and death.

Nene Adams has crafted a story that reeks of authenticity, including the fact that there were a number of famous female pirates who successfully prowled the Caribbean area in the 17th and 18th centuries. She uses so many terms and sayings from the period that she includes a glossary at the back of the book to explain them.
When Bess is standing on her quarterdeck preparing her ship for battle, you can almost smell the salt water and envision what the crew looks like as they go about their duties. The supernatural scenes which might make a reader think that the book is a fantasy are done so realistically and with such skill, that it becomes totally possible to believe they are happening. 

The supporting cast is as riveting as the leading ladies. Solomon Lovelock, who ultimately proves what true loyalty is; Dunn, the first mate, and his lover the blademaster Levalier who provide lessons in seamanship and fighting techniques; Mistress Glasspoole, who provides a wealth of information about using herbs and natural items to treat wounds and illness; and towering above them all, quite literally, is Captain Letty Speedwell. If Bess O'Bedlam wasn't such a dynamic character, her best friend Letty could easily dominate the book, but Adams strikes a perfect balance between the two. There is a scene in the final battle where Speedwell will make the reader want to sit up and shout at her performance. There are many other characters and scenes which enhance the story and will stick in the reader's mind.

Adams obviously did extensive research for this book. Besides the language, the details in the clothing, food and geography, plus the extensive knowledge of the medical lore and supernatural beliefs, give this book the texture that all historical novels should have. It puts to shame those books that twist history so that it can't be recognized in reality. At the end it's a disappointment to remember that these people did not really exist. 

Water Witch: The Deceiver's Grave is a book that deserves to be read and enjoyed.

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