Book Review: Bloody Jack

Bloody Jack: Being an account of the curious adventures of Mary “Jacky” Faber, ship’s boy
L.A. Meyer, read by Kathrine Kellgren

Mary Faber has nothing left of her family. Mother, Father and her younger sister have all died in the plague besieging London. It is the 1800s, a time when an orphan thrown forcefully onto the streets had very few options. She is immediately mugged by a local gang and left crying in the streets in only her shift. She is picked up by Rooster Charlie’s gang, fed, and given “housing” under a nearby bridge. The gang does what a gang will do in these times: beg, steal, connive and raid other gang’s lairs, stealing to meet the needs of the children. Oh, and Mary reads. She is the tiniest of the orphans, and stands on a larger boy’s shoulders outside the local printer’s shop, reading the broadsheets to the illiterate masses. They will gift her with a penny or two, if she is lucky.

The streets are fraught with danger: disease, malnutrition, kidnappers, other gangs, and the elements. When Rooster Charlie goes missing, Mary knows it’s only a matter of time before she ends up missing, dead, kidnapped or worse. She puts on boys’ clothes and goes to the docks, determined to find a way to be safer. By proving she can read, she manages to get hired on as a ship’s boy for the British Navy. She is taken on board the warship the Dolphin, which is being deployed to chase pirates in the Caribbean. Now called Jacky and part of a motley crew of young men, she is fed three meals a day, educated, and has a warm, dry place to sleep. Or, she will, as long as she can hide the truth of her gender!

This rollicking, unbelievable, hilarious, heartbreaking and nonstop adventure story follows Jacky’s days aboard the Dolphin, getting into and out of trouble, climbing rigging and sleeping in hammocks, winning the hearts of (almost) everyone she meets, all while keeping the biggest of secrets. L. A. Meyer is a masterful storyteller, alternately having you laughing until tears roll down your face, biting your fingernails, sniffling, and wondering what on EARTH Jacky is going to do to get out of whatever she’s into now. The rich voice of Jacky becomes as familiar as your best friend’s through the amazing reading (and singing!) of Kathrine Kellgren.

This is by far my favorite audiobook series of all time. My family immediately downloaded book two when we reached the cliffhanger at the end of this installment. We are now midway through book three, and the action hasn’t slackened yet. We are looking forward to listening to all 12 books! Cloud Library has all of the books available for download in type or audio versions, and many are also available on CD. Or, the print versions are available in our children’s department or through inter-library loan.

To order a print copy of the book, click here. The audio version is available through the Cloud Library; for more information on how to download the app and access titles, talk with a librarian at the Information Desk.

This review is by Andrea Terry, one of circulation staff.

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