The “space pirate” genre turns oddly literal in this first book in a series.
Emma Garton doesn’t pay attention when her best friend, Herbie, comes up with ludicrous explanations for her dad’s mysterious travels. Yet even Herbie is taken aback when the truth comes out. After all, it’s not every kid who’s born to alien pirates wanted for a multitude of crimes, like the theft of the Pyxis, an amulet with mysterious powers. When her parents are hauled away, Emma and Herbie are left in possession of the hidden Pyxis as well as her family boat. Traveling between galaxies means navigating the intergalactic seas. Determined to save her parents, Emma and Herbie must face down whole navies—and a dragon—while endeavoring to keep the Pyxis out of the wrong hands. Unfortunately, both the metaphysics of intergalactic travel and characters’ motivations are too often sketchy at best. The adventure never turns dull, but the logistics of the worldbuilding are tricky. Most problematic are the waterways among star systems. This method of travel is never adequately explained, making it appear as though the author wanted to have her cake (space pirates) and to eat it too (high seas).
Though the book is admittedly rousing, readers are better off setting sail on Jason Fry’s Curse of the Iris (2014) than on this confusing, tepid star-sea journey. (Science fiction. 9-12)