**I received this book for free through Book Expo America in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.**
Release Information: 10 September 2013 from HarperCollins
Source: Book Expo America
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Summary: Pirates! Magic! Treasure! A gargoyle? Caroline Carlson's hilarious tween novel The Very Nearly Honorable League of Pirates #1: Magic Marks the Spot is perfect for fans of Lemony Snicket's Series of Unfortunate Events and Trenton Lee Stewart's Mysterious Benedict Society.
Hilary Westfield has always dreamed of being a pirate. She can tread water for thirty-seven minutes. She can tie a knot faster than a fleet of sailors, and she already owns a rather pointy sword.
There's only one problem: The Very Nearly Honorable League of Pirates refuses to let any girl join their ranks of scourges and scallywags.
But Hilary is not the kind of girl to take no for answer. To escape a life of petticoats and politeness at her stuffy finishing school, Hilary sets out in search of her own seaworthy adventure, where she gets swept up in a madcap quest involving a map without an X, a magical treasure that likely doesn't exist, a talking gargoyle, a crew of misfit scallywags, and the most treacherous—and unexpected—villain on the High Seas.
Written with uproarious wit and an inviting storyteller tone, the first book in Caroline Carlson's quirky seafaring series is a piratical tale like no other.
Hilary is a high society girl who just wants to be a pirate. To some extent, that made this book a comedy of manners. In fact, not only is Hilary a very polite pirate but the main story line is about finding the magic that was taken away because the person in charge of the magic thought people were being rude with it. This made for a lot of funny situations.
As for the characters, many of them are charming. Hilary’s roommate, Claire, is sweet and a nice contrast to Hilary and I especially liked Hilary’s governess, Eloise, who insists on coming along to chaperon Hilary’s adventure. I really appreciated that not all of the adults in this story were completely oblivious or unwilling to help. We only spend a decent amount of time with two pirates. Jasper is nice enough, but I really like Charlie. This book has no romance, but I could see Hilary developing a crush on him in the future. However, among all the people, it is Hilary’s magical, talking, no-armed Gargoyle who I fell in love with. He always made me laugh, but I also got to see his vulnerability.
The only thing that bothered me about the characters is that they were clearly divided between good and evil. I know that it is fairly common in middle grade and it’s not bad, it’s just not my preference. Hilary’s dad turns out to be a very bad dude and I never felt like it affected her emotionally. This is the main reason that this book charmed me, but never swept me off my feet.
Favorite moments: When the mean girl Philomena gets what’s coming to her at the end.
WTF Moments: Any scene with Hilary’s dad. He wasn’t downright awful to her, but he was so dismissive and condescending that it was almost worse.
Overall: A fun middle grade book, but it never went beyond cute and funny for me. (I rated it 4, but it is really more of a 3.5)