There is more action to the square page in this book than can be adequately condensed -- pirates, Africa, quagmires, pygmies, jewels, prison, Lords, trials, hangings, lives lost and a lost mother rediscovered. The author writes well and uses a myriad of absorbing detail to make you see, hear and smell the disparate sections of 18th century London and the world. The cast of characters is enormous of course, but the dialogue is so well done that each of the many voices emerges as a distinct personality, partly through the descriptions of Jack Holbrook, the young narrator, and partly through their own choices of revealing words and identifying phrases. (Jack has the master gossip's great ear for reporting whole conversations.) The book is proof positive that all good stories deserve re-telling, because in lesser hands, each of the amazing dramatic turns Jack's story takes would be just a series of thundering cliches. Take the start for instance -- Jack is runaway apprentice cobbler, who had been a parish foundling, and he stows away on a likely looking ship. Before he was discovered, pirates have boarded and dispatched the crew and put Jack to work as the cook's boy and... It's done with such terrific good nature and flair that you begin by liking Jack, whose instincts are good, and wind up enjoying the whole teeming book.