Pluchino (Saraynea: Return to the Frostpeak Mountains Territory, 2017, etc.) tells the story of two red pandas—one a princess, the other a pirate—who join up in this middle-grade fantasy series starter.
Raven, the red panda princess of Frostpeak Mountains Territory, has proven very good at beating up any pirates that dare set oar in the harbor. She’s starting to think maybe she needs more of a challenge. Many entries are the same, she notices as she looks over her diary. “I go to the harbor, fight with the pirates, and come back home.…I want to write about something big and awesome…like a real adventure.” Imagine her surprise when then next time she goes down to the harbor, she is captured by pirate hunters mistaking her for a pirate herself! They lock her up aboard their ship, where she meets fellow captive Xifeng, another red panda and a real-life pirate. Xifeng helps Raven escape from the boat under the cover of night, though the two hardly trust one another. Xifeng decides to help Raven get back home—if only in anticipation of reward. As they travel together, Raven realizes that there are many pirate hunters in the world who behave unethically…and even a few pirates who aren’t so bad. When they reunite with Xifeng’s crew, the pirates ask Raven to help them find a population of phoenixes that they believe to be in danger. Princess Raven has finally found the adventure she’s dreamed of, but is she up to the challenge? Pluchino’s prose, like the story, is generally simple but occasionally violent: “The deer and hare who kept Xifeng tied up brought her into the open space. The hare punched her hard on her wound again, forcing Xifeng to her knees as they retreated back through the wooden gate that closed behind them.” While there is an impressive array of species represented (sun bears, clouded leopards, lynxes), the landscapes and physical geography are only lightly described. Though light on character development, worldbuilding, and plot complexity, the book delivers lots of adventure in the form of anthropomorphic animals fighting, sailing ships, and the like.
A thin but quick-moving tale of a princess who becomes a pirate.