Book Review: On Stranger Tides

On Stranger Tides book cover
On Stranger Tides
Tim Powers
1987
★★★★★

(Listened to audiobook)

On Stranger Tides was the in­spi­ra­tion for the fourth Pi­rates of the Caribbean movie; please don’t hold that against it. (I haven’t seen the movie, but I know the only points it shares with this book are the char­ac­ter of Black­beard and the main MacGuf­fin).

Tim Pow­ers writes some of my fa­vorite fic­tion. His baili­wick is to take a his­tor­i­cal nar­ra­tive and rein­ter­pret it in an al­ter­nate, su­per­nat­ural world. Small ex­am­ple: in real life the pi­rate Black­beard wove lit slow matches into his hair and beard to in­tim­i­date his en­e­mies. In On Stranger Tides, Black­beard does this to ap­pease a spirit who is pla­cated by smol­der­ing fire. It’s the blend­ing of nu­mer­ous his­tor­i­cal facts with fic­tional mo­ti­va­tions that makes Pow­er­s’s books stand out to me.

On Stranger Tides is Pow­er­s’s re-imag­in­ing of the golden age of piracy in a world where voodoo is real. As al­ways, his plot is fast-paced, his char­ac­ters are nu­anced, and the writ­ing it­self clever.

While I pre­fer Declare and Three Days to Never, On Stranger Tides is an­other top-notch en­try in the Tim Pow­ers cat­a­logue.

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