Sunday 5 March 2017

#bookreview ~ The Devil And The Deep Blue Sea #histfic @JohannaCraven

The Devil And The Deep Blue Sea
Johanna Craven

1692. The Atlantis, captained by veteran seaman Benjamin Archer, flies the colours of an English merchantman on the high seas between the English Channel and the Caribbean.

But she also runs up the ‘jolie rouge’ – the Jolly Roger – whenever the prospect of plundering a Spanish treasure ship presents itself.

Nipping at Spain’s empire is common practice for state-sponsored privateers like the Atlantis at a time when lesser European powers dare not directly make war on Spain.

But when those governments abandon the practice of issuing letters of marque to privateers against the Spanish galleons, many of the crews turn pirate.

Such is the fate of Archer’s men.

The crew is forced to sign the ship’s articles consenting to their new piratical ways, thereby placing their heads in a noose.

Unless, that is, they can stage a mutiny and turn Archer over to the authorities in the Caribbean city of Port Royal, a popular homeport for privateers – and notorious for its gaudy displays of wealth and loose morals, the ‘wickedest city on earth’.

But superstition is rife among seamen and the presence on board the Atlantis of two women – one a high-born French stowaway Catherine and the other a Jamaican slave-born ‘cabin boy’ Serafine – will only be a bad omen if they are discovered.

Worse, the runaway is thought by her family to possess the powers of a witch while the ‘boy’ worships voodoo gods who rule life from beneath the waves.

Will the mutiny succeed?

What is the secret bond between Archer and Serafine?

And can Catherine escape the captain’s determination to make her his after she has fallen for another young officer?

Is some unstoppable divine force slowly gathering to punish the profane?

Johanna Craven’s impressive latest novel combines the island paradise world of Mutiny on the Bounty with the visual and visceral immediacy of Master and Commander, whilst also delving into the legacies of colonialism explored in Joseph Conrad’s sinister Heart of Darkness.

Beyond the power and control of man lies what …?

What did I think of the book?

I am an avid reader of historical fiction, and I think because of this I have set the bar very high. The Devil And The Deep Blue Sea is so far passed the bar that it is in another hemisphere. This is an extraordinary work of historical fiction, and I don't say that lightly. It really did blow me away.

The characters were fresh and beautiful portrayed. This story is driven by several key protagonists, who each have their own desperate backstory and somehow, against the odds, they have all ended up on the same ship — some willingly, others not so. And despite their suspicion of each other, they know that they cannot survive without the others. There is a real sense of desperation in this story and about the want for something better. Craven has portrayed the human spirit with great proficiency and believability. There is also a love story here, which touched my heart and I was really gunning for the characters to have a happy ever after, but with the explosive ending I wasn't sure they were going to get it.

The prose in this book is a work of art — fabulous storytelling. I cannot stress how good this book is. It ticked all my boxes and then some.

I applaud Craven for bringing such a well researched and breathtaking story into the world. This is a must read, if ever there was one.

I Highly Recommend. 

Links for Purchase

About the author

 Johanna Craven is an Australian-born writer of historical and new adult fiction. She is also a film composer, music teacher and pianist. She has lived in Melbourne and Los Angeles and is currently based in London.
Her more questionable hobbies include ghost hunting, meditative dance and pretending to be a competitor on The Amazing Race when travelling abroad.
Check out Johanna's books and music at

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Take Care,
Mary Anne xxx