A corvid catastrophe threatens swashbuckling Blue Jay and his mixed avian crew after a treetop shipwreck leaves them to the tender mercies of a murder of crows.
Reputed to be “generally the most bloodthirsty and fearsome pirate to sail the high skies” (but not really that bad), Blue Jay flies the Jolly Robin from his ship the Grosbeak. Aside, however, from occasional harmless plundering, he much prefers sailing grandly through the clouds. Still, after falling into the clutches of his more viciously piratical cousin Teach and getting their flight feathers clipped, he and his scrappy crew—particularly Gabriel, a recent hatchling who grows in the tale from an oversized and ungainly bumbler into a magnificent Branta goose—must act. They rise to defeat the crows in a pair of savage battles with help from flocks of sparrows and an intrepid mole. In his debut as a novelist, Nash’s dialogue comes off as stilted (“This evening… I managed to successfully facilitate a visit between our unwitting weasels and a she wolf,” reports the mole), and his efforts to inject mystical notes with repeated references to geese as gods or godlings seem labored. Otherwise, he crafts a merry romp that is much enhanced by frequent formally drawn ink-and-color scenes of an airborne galleon and full-body portraits of birds posing in 17th-century costume.
An imaginative premise, fledged in showy if sometimes overdecorated finery. (Fantasy. 10-12)