A conked-out attacker lying in a pool of…beet juice is as close as this dainty piratical escapade gets to actual gore or violence.
Except for providing application forms and refusing to let young Hilary Westfield be the pirate she’s always longed to be, the bureaucratic buccaneers of the series’ title remain in the wings in this kickoff tale. She must, perforce, accompanied by her brisk governess and trusty talking stone gargoyle, take matters into her own hands. She slips away from Miss Pimm’s Finishing School for Delicate Ladies to join gentlemanly freelance pirate Jasper Fletcher (“Terror of the Southlands,” as he’s repeatedly dubbed) on a search for a certain fabulous trove of magical gold hidden long ago. Ensuing complications include the horrifying revelation that her own father, a renowned admiral, is scheming to take over the kingdom and banish piracy forever. The tongue-in-cheek tale is punctuated by vigorous but injury-free melees, plus images of tabloid newspaper pages, advertisements, extracts from the titular league’s “Treasure Hunting for Beginners” manual and “handwritten” correspondence, including breathless exchanges between Hilary and a school friend. The adventure winds its way to a glittering hoard, a fabulous wedding and, best of all, a well-earned league membership card for its plucky protagonist.
Even the gargoyle comes away with a pirate hat. A polite chorus of “Aaarrgghh”s all round, please, for this rather twee outing. (Fantasy. 10-13)