“Bloody Jack” by L.A. Meyer

“Bloody Jack”
by L.A. Meyer
Read by Katherine Kellgren
Produced by Listen & Live Audio, 2007
Approx 7.5 hours

So do you like pirates, street urchins and love stories?  I think I may have found the perfect audiobook for you.  This time around I listened to another young adult novel, and had a grand adventure from the streets of London to fighting pirates on the high seas.  This adventure novel is also a nice historical novel.  The story takes place during the 18th century when his majesty’s navy was battling pirates and preparing for war against France.

The story is told through the voice of Mary “Bloody Jack” Faber as she lives out these adventures.  It all begins with her as a young orphan on the streets of London trying to survive.  Mary takes up with “Rooster” Charlie, the leader of a gang of orphans who beg on the streets to survive.  Charlie takes care of his gang and Mary looks up to him as a brother.  When Mary discovers Charlie dead on the dark backstreets of London, she no longer has someone to take care of her so she decides to be her on person.  She takes Charlies clothes and the persona of Jack, she soon learns that as a boy things are a bit easier in the street life.

Now living as Jack, she finds her way to the docks, where Navy ships are looking for ship boys, these are the boys that do the grunt work on board the ship,  Jack gets on board the H.M.S. Dolphin as a ship boy and maintains her secret of being a girl.  She soon boards with 3 other boys taken on at the same time and leads a life as a Navy ship boy.  After a year or so on-board she finds it harder and harder to maintain the secret because her body is betraying her.   Not sure what all the changes of puberty will bring, since she never had any parents to tell her, she strikes out on the next port call to a bordello to ask one of the women there what she needs to know.  Upon leaving the bordello the other boys see “Jack” and add to to the myth of her being a boy, after some teasing.  During this same port call the 4 ship-boys have created a pact among each other to always be true.  To prove this they get tattoos and whenever a secret must be kept they swear upon their tattoos.

Jack gains her nickname “Bloody Jack” after the crew of the HMS Dolphin boards a ship and she, still only about thirteen years old, shoots a plundered pistol to kill a pirate who is about to stab one of her fellow shipmates, Jaimy, who is paralyzed with fright. She comes back to the Dolphin covered in blood, and her proud shipmates nickname the little “boy” Bloody Jack.

During a battle with a pirate ship in the Caribbean the HMS Dolphin is damaged and takes on water.  The ship is forced to seek shelter in the cove of a small island until repairs can be made.  On this island there is no wood of use to repair the ship so one of the crew members, who has been experimenting with kites, puts Jack on the kite and flies her high to scout for land.  During the “flight” the kite breaks free flying Jack 30 miles or so from the Island to be marooned on another Island by herself.

Growing up alone and trying to maintain a major secret create a great adventure in “Bloody Jack.”  Basically start out with a little “Oliver Twist’ throw in some “Treasure Island” with a dash of “Robinson Crusoe” and you have this fun adventure.

Katherin Kellgren does a wonderful job voicing this book.  From the cockney accent of the street kids to the distinguished officers on-board the HMS Dolphin, she delivers the book with realism.