Antigua de Fortune of the High Seas by Anna Rainbow & Oli Hyatt

Published by Chicken House, 2021.

Antigua de Fortune of the High Seas is a wonderfully exciting seafaring adventure packed with pirates, mermaids and the magic of the ocean.

Antigua – Tiggy to her friends – has always had the ocean in her blood and longs for adventure and the sea. Yet this is at odds with what her parents, particularly her mother, expect of her; theirs is a wealthy, well-respected family and as such Tiggy is forced to wear ridiculous dresses, attend balls and keep her feet firmly planted on land.

When an evil mage, hell-bent on re-awakening an ancient curse, sends his pirates to raid the island of Haven and kidnap all the boys – including Tiggy’s five-year-old brother – Tiggy has no choice but to disobey her parents. She commandeers a crew of washed-up pirates and their boat and, together with her best friend Marina, Tiggy sets out on a rescue mission.

Tiggy is a brilliant female lead and children are going to love her. She’s feisty and brave, fiercely loyal and determined, yet troubled by self-doubt and she doesn’t always know what to do for the best.

The book has a powerful feminist message, which I absolutely loved. In addition to Tiggy, there’s a whole cast of incredibly strong female characters – from Lucia the pirate captain, to the magical selkies and Clara the mermaid – who display fearlessness, leadership, determination, alongside talent, compassion and courage. I love seeing depictions of such capable women in children’s books. The book also recognises and, more importantly, challenges how females are often automatically ignored or dismissed by society.

I also enjoyed the book’s exploration of prejudice and difference. There is a long-standing animosity between land and sea: humans pitted against sea creatures by the Pirate King. The distrust of difference is an important theme which is tackled in the story.

The book has magic and sorcery running through it. It’s the ancient magic of the sea and so often in the story the sea almost feels like a character itself. I loved the evocative descriptions of the sea and the sense of power coming from the ocean.

Tiggy felt the magic bloom inside her like never before. That wonderful cool tingle started in her belly, followed by the sensation of lapping waves undulating through her entire body, and finally an explosion of salt and spray right inside her heart.

page 314

The story is fantastically exciting and a real page-turner, particularly towards the end. As the book reaches its climax, there are some incredibly tense and terrifying scenes – some with pretty dark undertones.

Antigua de Fortune is a story of friendship and loyalty, bravery and magic. It’s the first in a new series and it ends with Tiggy and her crew poised for more adventure. I’m definitely on board.

Rating: 💙💙💙💙

Suitable for children aged 8+

Thank you to Chicken House for sending me this book to review.

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