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Our Favorite Pirate Fantasies

By Alison Bunis

Two things we love: pirates and fantasy. So you know what’s even better? When we can get them together in a good old fashioned pirate fantasy adventure.

If you’re a longtime fan of this genre, you’ll find some exciting new reads and a few old favorites to revisit on this list. And if you’ve never cracked open a pirate fantasy book before―what are you waiting for? It’s got pirates and fantasy!

At Death’s Door by Sherrilyn Kenyon

Curl up with the latest in Sherrilyn Kenyon’s Deadman’s Cross saga, an epic pirate fantasy perfect for her millions of Dark-Hunter fans. Welcome to the latest Deadmen’s Quest…

Valynda Moore was born cursed. So when she dies as the result of a spell gone wrong and is trapped in the body of a voodoo doll, she expects nothing else from her messed up life. Until the leader of the Hellchasers offers her a chance at redemption. She will join the crew of Deadmen on the Sea Witch and fight demons.
Easy enough? But nothing is ever easy for Valynda, and she must keep her wits about her or be denied her salvation and forced to watch as the entire world falls into the hands of absolute evil.

Dark Shores by Danielle L. Jensen

This book has it all: adventure on the high seas, blackmail, thrills, meddling gods…Teriana was the second mate of the Quincense pirate ship, and heir to the people who keep the secrets of their world’s treacherous seas―until she broke her people’s mandate to help her closest friend escape an unwanted betrothal. Marcus is the commander of the notorious Thirty-Seventh legion, and has helped the Empire conquer the entire East―but he has a secret he’ll risk his life―and the world―to protect. When the two are forced into an alliance, they must decide how far they’re willing to go for a conquest they didn’t choose…

The Shades of Magic series by V.E. Schwab

No pirate fantasy list is complete without mentioning Lila Bard from V.E. Schwab’s Shades of Magic series. When we first meet her in A Darker Shade of Magic, Lila is a pickpocket with a secret and a lot of ambition: one day, she’ll have her own ship. But first, she meets Kell, one of the last magicians with the coveted abilities to travel between parallel Londons: Red, Grey, White, and, once upon a time, Black. Grey London native Lila doesn’t know the parallel worlds exist until she robs Kell and then saves him from a deadly enemy. With new worlds at her fingertips, Lila’s not staying home―what kind of pirate would she be if she did?

Child of a Hidden Sea by A.M. Dellamonica

Interested in some political intrigue with your pirates? How about a portal to a hidden world? Child of a Hidden Sea checks both boxes and then some. One minute, Sophie Hansa is in a San Francisco alley. The next, she’s in the warm and salty waters of an unfamiliar world: Stormwrack, a series of island nations with a variety of cultures and economies, all in the middle of a political firestorm…and where everyone seems to know who she is, but nobody wants her to stay. With the help of a ship captain who would rather she’d never arrived, Sophie must navigate Stormwrack’s seas and treacherous politics, and win the right to decide her own destiny.

 Pirate Freedom by Gene Wolfe

Gene Wolfe was a towering master of fantasy and science fiction. He won award upon award, he was inducted into the Science Fiction Hall of Fame in 2007, and he was named a Grand Master by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America in 2012. So it would be absolutely ridiculous of us to not include his contribution to the pirate fantasy oeuvre on this list. Pirate Freedom is the story of a young boy, Chris, who leaves a monastery in Cuba and finds himself in a world much harder than the one he remembers: a world where slaves are sold at auction, and the Spanish, French, and English are all battling for supremacy. When he’s offered the chance to work on a ship in exchange for food and a bit of money, Chris takes it, and so begins his life as a pirate. But as with all Gene Wolfe books, things are never quite as simple as they seem.

The Queen of Swords by R. S. Belcher

Maude Stapleton, one of the most popular characters from The Six-Gun Tarot and The Shotgun Arcana, gets an adventure of her own, and it’s just as pirate-filled as we’d hoped. Respectable widow Maude is raising her daughter all by herself. But like any self-respecting respectable widow, she’s got a secret: Maude belongs to an ancient order of assassins, the Daughters of Lilith, and is the heir to the legacy of the infamous pirate queen Anne Bonney. And when her daughter is kidnapped, Maude will do anything to get her missing child back―even get in the middle of a secret war between the Daughters of Lilith and their monstrous, inhuman enemies the Sons of Typhon, or follow in Anne Bonney’s footsteps on a perilous voyage that leads to the Father of All Monsters…

Pacifica by Kristin Simmons

This one leans a little more sci-fi than fantasy, but a pirate is a pirate, so let’s not get too nitpicky. Instead, sink into the romance and perhaps the ocean (it covers the world) of Pacifica. It’s a polluted, dilapidated world, so no wonder when five hundred lucky lottery winners are offered the chance to leave their homes behind and be the first to settle in an island paradise with blue skies, green grass, and clear ocean water, everyone jumps at the chance. It sounds perfect. Except Marin Carey spent her childhood on those seas and knows there’s no island paradise out there. She’s pirate royalty, like her father and his father before him, and she knows a con when she sees one. So where are the First Five Hundred really going?

11 thoughts on “Our Favorite Pirate Fantasies

  1. Adding my vote for Powers’ _On Stranger Tides_ – it manages to be both a quintessential example of this genre, while also being completely original.

    Worth mentioning also are Massey’s _Mad Kestrel_ and Rohan’s _Chase the Morning_.

  2. Red Seas Under Red Skies by Scott Lynch. And if you haven’t already read The Lies of Locke Lamora, pick that one up first and enjoy!

  3. This list is sadly incomplete without Tim Powers’ “On Stranger Tides.” I expected to see it at or near the top of the list.

  4. Thought of another one I enjoyed. I don’t play Warhammer but I’ve read a book or two. Dan Abnett is one of the best of the writers they tap for some novels and he wrote a very satisfying pirate book, Fell Cargo. It’s set in the medieval fantasy Warhammer world. I don’t really think you need to know much about Warhammer to enjoy it. I don’t know very much about the fictional world.

  5. I love a good pirate fantasy and will look into all these, except Darker Shade of Magic which I’ve already read. I particularly like Steampunk airship pirates, like in The Wake of the Dragon by Jaq D. Hawkins. Looking forward to the continuation of that series.

  6. I enthusiastically recommend the Bloody Jack series by the sorely missed L.A. Meyer, in which Mary “Jackie” Faber evolves from cabin boy to pirate captain, all in her teens. Of particular note are the audio book versions narrated by the lamentably late but amazingly great Katherine Kellgren.

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