Cinnamon and Gunpowder by Eli Brown
What I drank: Well, I went on a date and the pizza was great! So that should tell you how that went. But the place we went had the great idea for Ladies night that with the purchase of an entree, glasses of wine were 10 cents, so I’m pretty happy.
Non-Spoiler Summary: Straight up, the summary of this sounds like it was going to be the trashiest romance novel to ever be about a chef kidnapped by a sexy lady pirate and forced to ride the high seas until he fell in love… that is only kind of what this book was. So this guy works for a straight-laced British officer, but one day the sexy lady pirate (hannah mabbot) swaggers into his house, shoots him in the head, and kidnaps our main character Owen Wedgewood. He spend his life on the high sea which he wasn’t there, and tryihng to escape which at times makes him a pretty boring character to follow around. There’s a cast of people that doesn’t seem particularly important right now, and a villain who is trying to take over the opium trade (the fox) that mabbot is trying to hunt down. There’s a twist and stuff happens and the book is a book so it ends…
Non-Spoiler thoughts: This book was not at all what I expected. AS said above I figured this book was going to be literary candy. The kind of thing you choose when you want a light read that doesn’t require much attention and is just fun to read from start to finish. This wasn’t quite that… this is a book that took itself super seriously. Starting with the prose… which means I’ll actually have something to write below for writing style… cool.
Plot: I actually read this with a book club and the biggest complaint was that we had expected more twists. There’s really only one big reveal in this book, and the pacing was slow enough at times (what with Owen focusing for pages at a time on attempted escapes as well as pages upon pages of descriptions of the food he cooked (as someone who doesn’t like seafood, not as much my jam as I would have thought)) that it really could have used a little more intrigue. There was a subplot regarding some subterfuge on the ship but that wasn’t particularly exciting, and I found it to be misplaced considering it wasn’t even something you could have figured out from context clues.
Characters: The characters were fine… This was a book that let it’s VERY FEW female characters have multiple facets, but I have gripes that will be mentioned in the spoiler section. Owen could get a little bit tiring as it seemed to take him way longer than should have been necessary to figure out a couple of things… mainly that running away was probbly not going to be his best bet… this wasn’t a guy who was supposed to be in shape… some of his escape attempts were fucking stupid. The supporting cast could be fun. Mr. Apple’s the second in command could be a little bit ananchronistic what with his love of knitting and abitility to kill a man with a single blow. I think the most fleshed out character, other than Mabbot, was probably Joshua, a mute boy on the ship who ended up helping Owen out when he needed it. the kid was sweet while also having a little bit of an acidic sense of humor.
Writing Style: The desription of this book made it seem like it was going to be fairly straight-forward but it wasn’t exactly that. The book was written partially as a journal so instead of being an easy read it read in a fairly old-fashioned prose-y manner. I’m well passed my phase where I want to read everything considered a classic (it was a dark time – not to say some of the classics aren’t great – but there were far too many where I felt like I had wasted my time) so it took me a bit to get into the writing style. THis book also took itself way more seriously than the summary or cover would have implied. The descriptions of so many things were detailed. I understand coming from the viewpoint of a chef that that should be epxected where food was concerned, but there was plenty of waxing poetic about the items found in Mabbot’s chambers.
SPOILERS – PLEASE SKIP IF YOU’RE GOING TO READ ETC:
HOLY SHIT WHY DID ALL OF THE NAMED FEMALE CHARACTERS DIE!!! WHY WAS THIS NECESSARY? Okay, now I can talk rationally about it. This was so frustrating, for a book to actually have an intriguing female character in a position of power who was allowed her moments of weakness as well as her (more numerous) moments of strength, the person who was allowed to be callous and cruel while also having moments of grace and generosity to die. Don’t get me wrong, she goes out in a blaze of glory, but it doesn’t change in this sausage fest of a book; the book starts with two named female characters (although you dont’ know one of them is a woman until halfway through anyway b/c she’s disguised as a man) and they both die. It sucks.
The twist of the Fox being Mabbots son with the officer that Owen used to work for was fine but revealed early enough that the rest of the book kind of just plods along. I found myself not surprised by the fact that the Fox wanted to take over the opium trade, and that Mabbot was going to have a problem with that… The last 50 pages of the book suffers from a lack of excitement. It hits the point during teh final battle where the officers lacky is confronting Mabbot and I found myself not really needing to keep reading. Obviously I did, but I didn’t feel the drive to that I normally feel in a book so close to the end.
Rating: I’d give this one a 3.5/5 Stars. In other circumstances it would get more. It was a fun enough read, I enjoyed a lot of the descriptions which isn’t something that’s always true (even if I did skim a few paragraphs to make things go quicker), but I can’t get over my biggest frustration in the spoiler section. It happens so often that I have to deduct points from the rating.
Drink Pairing: A long Island Iced Tea. The kind of drink that everything is thrown into to make it work. Becuase that’s kind of what this book is. First off the pirates drink water doctored with spirits and whatever was aboard to keep it ‘fresh’ but also because I feel like this book tried to cross a number of genres and threw a variety of cliches against the wall to see which one would work. It was mostly successful even if this wouldn’t be a book I would force on everyone I meet, it was fun enough.
Happy Drinking, and until next time,