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The Daring Adventures of Captain Lucy Smokeheart: The Complete Adventures Paperback – April 7, 2015
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About the Author
Andrea Phillips is a transmedia writer and game designer who has worked on award-winning projects for clients such asHBO, Sony Pictures, and Channel 4 Education, plus original projects like Perplex City, Thomas Dolby's Floating City, and the nonprofit human rights game America 2049. Her indie work includes Balance of Powers and the forthcoming Felicity. She cheats at Words with Friends.
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There are a couple of worthwhile questions to ask about this book when deciding to read it or not. Since it has history as an episodic story, does it translate into a novel and what, if anything is missing for reading it in this way. Having been a part of the kickstarter, there were maybe two aspects that occurred while the stories were releasing. One was a puzzle that each episode had for the reader to decipher and the other is influencing the story itself, maybe, in small ways. I cannot say if the audience actually had much of an impact on what happened, but to be honest, it is hard to imagine they did considering the story is so well put together.
The story is clearly aimed at younger readers, as nothing truly heart breaking happens and most everything that seems to be a serious situation ends up being light hearted. The story itself is told with in a very external style, focusing on action rather than the emotional impact of it. A reader could determine the thoughts and feelings of the characters with just a little bit of consideration, but it is entirely not required for the enjoyment. In this sense the book might not balance internal and external, it still manages to pull off a good story because the internal is there, just mostly between the lines.
For those interested in feminist themes, the book does a great job of putting women in roles everywhere without batting an eye. No one questions Lucy for what she is up to because she’s a girl, they question it because she’s a child. There is casual mention of soldiers to every profession handled by men and women, though most of the people in high positions of power seem to be men, this might have been simple happenstance as there is really only a couple such people. The ratio of character gender seems to be very close to 50/50, without feeling at all like pandering.
The book is not a historic fiction, nor does it really attempt to be. The setting is something not unlike but completely different from the age of piracy between the 1500 and 1850. Someone with a better eye for tech could probably approximate better, but colonialism plays a huge role in the unwritten words of the story. The thing is, this world is more an original world than attempting to mirror reality. There are dragons, there are demi-humans, there are mermaids and they are not considered mythical or fantastical. Magic is even extremely accepted by just about everyone. Still places like Canada and Sweden do exist. Some of you might point out Canada was founded in 1867 which would seem to be past the age of piracy. This is correct. The book is not historic fiction.
While action packed, the theme of family is going to keep coming up, as well as the themes of trust and friendship. If there is a moral to the story it is a little hard to pick out, but the book does have a concrete path that it seems to follow from front to back. The chapters were the original episodes and they too go together well. One thing that a reader might notice is the visual element, descriptions and adjectives, are very strong. This book is written like a script for a show or a cartoon. Expect a lot of action sequences and humor. Speaking of humor, the author uses truth telling often to turn a situation into a joke, usually at the expense of the similar action adventures that came before it. There are tropes that the book subtlety makes fun of, while also later following similar ones. For some readers, this use of humor may be a big hook.
LGBT themes do not really come up in this story. The book isn’t entirely het norm, as same sex and opposite sex platonic friendships occur, and there isn’t a romance to really derail the story. There are no explicit same sex couples to be seen, in case any readers care about this. There is an explicit all female species that seems to thrive on their own without any males. So, while there is nothing on the surface, there is implied within this world and if you’ve read anything else by this author, you would know she is pro-LGBT. I only mention this incase this is a topic that a reader finds particularly important to them, but it would be a shame to pass the book up over this.
The puzzles which were a part of the episodic release, have managed to remain in the book. Each chapter includes a piece of a puzzle, which the reader can decipher on their own. It’s more an easter egg than anything you need to enjoy the book, as you could simply read it and wait till the end when it will all be explained by the author. It’s a nice touch that the reader can choose to engage in or ignore entirely. The only thing the campaign had that this book didn’t keep was the “pirate facts” that the author gave in her kickstarter updates. These facts pertained to the Lucy Smokeheart world and not necessarily the real world, but they did some small bit of world building. Maybe someday a new edition will contain all the material the author made, but I wouldn’t hold my breath right now.
Lucy Smokeheart is overall a very fun and amusing read. The style of releasing episodically does not negatively impact the novel format and the visual style of writing carries over nicely. Amazon recommends this book for 5 to 8, but I think older kids or adults would have no problem enjoying this book too. If you’re not into fantasy then it possibly isn’t for you, but if fantasy doesn’t bother you then I would say you should pick it up. Maybe if enough of us get on the Smokeheart ship it will force Andrea Philips to write more in this amazing world that has a surprising amount of depth and a vast ocean of potential.