Jun 7, 2011

Review: Steel by Carrie Vaughn

Title: Steel
Author: Carrie Vaughn
Publisher: HarperTeen
Publication Date: 3.1.2011
Pages: 304
Genre: Historical, Action, Time-travel
Series: No

Rating: B-

Summary (from Goodreads):
Sixteen-year-old Jill has fought in dozens of fencing tournaments, but she has never held a sharpened blade. When she finds a corroded sword piece on a Caribbean beach, she is instantly intrigued and pockets it as her own personal treasure.

The broken tip holds secrets, though, and it transports Jill through time to the deck of a pirate ship. Stranded in the past and surrounded by strangers, she is forced to sign on as crew. But a pirate's life is bloody and brief, and as Jill learns about the dark magic that brought her there, she forms a desperate scheme to get home—one that risks everything in a duel to the death with a villainous pirate captain.

Time travel, swordplay, and romance combine in an original high-seas adventure from
New York Times bestseller Carrie Vaughn.

I wasn’t sure what exactly I was expecting when I started Steel, but I don’t think it was this. Let me start by saying the cover is stunning breathtaking and while everyone knows not the judge a book by its cover, we all do it. Including me.

Steel is a very appropriate summer read. It has the Bahamas, pirates, adventure at sea, and a decent female lead. I was fascinated by how much I learned about piracy and sword fighting/fencing while reading. Carrie Vaughn doesn’t glamorize pirate life: it’s smelly, sweaty, and a lot of hard work for a few days of action. I have to commend her for not trying to make this tale a sweeping romance with a lot of flowery scenery, which it could have easily been. She has clearly done her homework on fencing, using the terminology frequently, but not so much as to confuse the reader. I appreciate that.

Unfortunately, the book had its drawbacks. Several times Vaughn used a single sentence to sum up what she should have described over several pages. Instead of explaining the ways the sails were hoisted or how the dynamics of the ship worked when the crew was setting sail, she would sum it up with one sentence. This happened several times. It was almost like being told a story from an actual person: When telling a story, a person won’t go into the heavy details, but I want these details when I’m reading a book. Another 50 pages of fleshing out these scenes would have gone a long way, in my opinion.

I also felt like Jill was a weak heroine. She tried to be strong, but I just could not connect with her. I couldn’t find that spark that would make me adore her. She was pretty, but bland.

Please don’t get me wrong: Steel is a fun book that I did enjoy. I just feel like it is more appropriate for the younger YA readers. The romance hinted about in the tagline is really more of a middle school crush that barely lasts past two pages. Blink and you miss it. If you’re reading this book hoping for a romance on the high seas, you’ll be disappointed. If you’re looking for a carefree adventure you can read on the beach on sunny afternoon, this is your book.


  1. Thanks for helping me re-align my expectations for this book. When I read about high-seas adventures I usually like me some good romantic tension. oh well, now I can go into reading this without that hope. Good review!

  2. Well, I already have a copy of this book and will read it eventually, but maybe a bit later.

  3. I've been curious about this one. The lack of romance appeals to me, as well as the realistic view of pirates and details of fencing.

  4. I read this book in the summer and I really agree with your review! It was a fun story and had a lot of good elements but it didn't blow me away. And it definitely shouldn't be described as a romance like it says on the cover. I don't like that they do that just to get more sales. It is not a romance.


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