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Steel Paperback – March 13, 2012

48 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


“Throughly enjoyable” (Kirkus)

“Vivid period details add to the appeal of this unusual swashbuckler.” (ALA Booklist)

“This unique story should have broad appeal.” (Voice of Youth Advocates (VOYA))

About the Author

Carrie Vaughn survived her air force brat childhood and managed to put down roots in Colorado. Her first book, Kitty and the Midnight Hour, launched a popular series of novels about a werewolf named Kitty who hosts a talk-radio advice show. She is also the author of Voices of Dragons, her debut novel for teen readers. Ms. Vaughn lives in Colorado.


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: HarperTeen; Reprint edition (March 13, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0061956503
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061956508
  • Product Dimensions: 8 x 5.3 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (48 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,589,637 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Carrie Vaughn is the author of the New York Times bestselling series of novels about a werewolf named Kitty. She also writes for young adults (her novel STEEL was named to the ALA's 2012 Amelia Bloomer list of the best books for young readers with strong feminist content), the Golden Age superhero series, and other contemporary fantasy stories. She's a contributor to the Wild Cards series of shared world superhero books edited by George R. R. Martin, and her short stories have appeared in numerous magazines and anthologies. She's a graduate of the Odyssey Fantasy Writing Workshop, and in 2011, she was nominated for a Hugo Award for best short story.

An Air Force brat, she survived her nomadic childhood and managed to put down roots in Boulder, Colorado, where she lives with her fluffy attack dog, a miniature American Eskimo named Lily.

Visit her at

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

19 of 23 people found the following review helpful By S. C. Lehman on March 24, 2011
Format: Hardcover
Maybe I've been reading too much Cormac McCarthy lately or was expecting this to have more action like Crichton's Pirate Latitudes, but I was not impressed by Steel. I can normally pick out the flow and ending of a story from the very beginning. So as the action started to rise in Steel, I was anticipating a lot more than a fizzle out. For example, one of the pirate confrontations has them screaming and waving their weapons around getting ready for battle. But before the ship even gets close, the other crew surrenders with barely a word. This happens several times and I understand this is for young adults, but there's a difference between toning down violence and just letting the action die before it even starts. Although I must give Vaughn credit for the origin of the sword -- quite demented.

Overall, Vaughn's research is wonderful. The details on fencing are elementary enough for someone who is just beginning an interest in fencing to fall in love with the sport. And for those already involved, the fight scenes are described well so that the reader can easily picture the movements. There's also a nice glossary. At the end of the book, Vaughn describes her researching methods, so I was a little disappointed to find out how much she'd researched on pirates but didn't include in more depth.

This is a great read for someone who is around 10-12 and even better for someone wanting to get into fencing. But if you're over 14 looking for a swashbuckling adventure, pass this one up.
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful By SciFiChick VINE VOICE on March 15, 2011
Format: Hardcover
Sixteen-year-old Jill is devastated when she loses her fencing tournament. So instead of enjoying her family vacation in the Bahamas, Jill spends her time sulking. On a stroll down the beach, Jill discovers an old, rusted sword fragment. But the sword tip is magical and transports Jill back in time to pirate infested waters. Rescued by a pirate ship with a female captain, Jill is given a chance to join the crew. But the longer she's there, the more Jill wants to find a way home.

When story begins, Jill is a moody girl, constantly feeling sorry for herself. But when she's forced into a hard life on a pirate ship, Jill's outlook changes dramatically. She's a hard worker and compassionate. Vaughn's pirates are not overly dramatized nor made into Hollywood-like heroes. Though at times Jill's captain makes heroic choices. The pirates are still thieves and murderers, yet governed by a democracy of sorts, live by a code, and cherish their freedom.

Steel is a surprisingly fantastic adventure for teens and adults alike. A time-travel fantasy with swashbuckling pirates, danger, and suspense - this is a must read. This exciting voyage was well-paced and impossible to put down. This is a story I didn't want to end. Full of swordplay, strong characters, and a bit of romance, I enjoyed every minute of it.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Lisa from Read.Breathe.Relax. on September 10, 2011
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
(Review originally published at

When I first read the description and saw the word "pirates," I was all in. I was really looking forward to reading Steel because I haven't read a really great and fully satisfying pirate fantasy book since Misty Massey's Mad Kestrel.

For some reason, sailing + pirates + magic = a rarity. Other than Robin Hobb's Liveship Trader series (Ship of Magic (The Liveship Traders, Book 1), I haven't seen many books that really fit this description. My elevated expectations may be the reason why I ended up feeling a little disappointed with Steel.

The book starts off with Jill vacationing with her family in Jamaica. She's just lost a fencing tournament and is pretty bummed about life. She's annoyed with her family and hung up about losing the fencing match by mere seconds. After being bucked off a rocking boat (with a broken rapier that she found on the beach in tow), she's transported 300 years back in time when pirates dominated the open water.

This is where the story gets a little dicey. Jill gets picked up by Marjory Cooper, a legendary pirate queen, and is forced to become a deckhand on her ship. Jill's experiences on the ship are recounted in such a dry, clinical way- bare descriptions about the ship, the crew and how hard life has become for her.

I didn't get any feel for who Jill was as a person. There was almost no characterization, which left me with zero emotional connection to Jill or her adventures as a new pirate.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Hannah @ The Irish Banana Review on June 7, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I wasn't sure what exactly I was expecting when I started Steel, but I don't think it was this. Let me start by saying the cover is stunning breathtaking and while everyone knows not the judge a book by its cover, we all do it. Including me.

Steel is a very appropriate summer read. It has the Bahamas, pirates, adventure at sea, and a decent female lead. I was fascinated by how much I learned about piracy and sword fighting/fencing while reading. Carrie Vaughn doesn't glamorize pirate life: it's smelly, sweaty, and a lot of hard work for a few days of action. I have to commend her for not trying to make this tale a sweeping romance with a lot of flowery scenery, which it could have easily been. She has clearly done her homework on fencing, using the terminology frequently, but not so much as to confuse the reader. I appreciate that.

Unfortunately, the book had its drawbacks. Several times Vaughn used a single sentence to sum up what she should have described over several pages. Instead of explaining the ways the sails were hoisted or how the dynamics of the ship worked when the crew was setting sail, she would sum it up with one sentence. This happened several times. It was almost like being told a story from an actual person: When telling a story, a person won't go into the heavy details, but I want these details when I'm reading a book. Another 50 pages of fleshing out these scenes would have gone a long way, in my opinion.

I also felt like Jill was a weak heroine. She tried to be strong, but I just could not connect with her. I couldn't find that spark that would make me adore her. She was pretty, but bland.

Please don't get me wrong: Steel is a fun book that I did enjoy. I just feel like it is more appropriate for the younger YA readers.
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