Desperate to escape a life of poverty in London, twelve-year-old Jacky Faber joins HMS Dolphin as a ship's boy. Looking forward to daring adventures and great riches, Jacky soon discovers that surviving life at sea requires more than quick feet and hard work. Being shot at from all directions and taking on brutal pirates demands courage and a lot of luck. But Jacky loves it.
There is just one problem - Jacky is a girl. And she will have to use all of her cunning if she is to keep the crew from discovering her secret. A secret that is becoming increasingly difficult to hide...
I knew going in that this was unlike anything I've ever read before - and I was definitely right. Bloody Jack is unique, in its story, its narration, and its characters.
Told from the point of view of Mary Faber, a young girl who loses her family to pestilence and has to live on the streets of London before becoming a ship's boy known as Jacky, Bloody Jack had me from page one. I'm interested to learn just how much research Meyer put into this book (and the series as a whole). The insights into such a life on a ship like the HMS Dolphin is fantastic and full of depth. Her writing style is impressive too. I'm a little in awe of how the whole narrative kept to the language, spelling and tone of both Jacky and the time period. It resonates throughout the whole book, and is great because it's Jacky through and through, and readers never forget it.
What a character Jacky is. Tough and smart, posing as a boy but still fully aware of who - and what - she is (as proven through giggle-worthy moments of dealing with first love and that unfortunate monthly female problem!!) Even in the scariest of moments she's quick to act, and it is this ability to do so that garners her reputation. Her adventures are many, and I must admit to being surprised by the nature of some of them - certainly, Bloody Jack is more serious than I initially expected, touching on such shocking themes as autopsy and medical experiments, and pedophilia. This is by no means a flaw - Meyer handles them well, with all the seriousness necessary. After all, they are a fact of the world. I felt terrified for Jacky many times and was always surprised by her cunning and ability to deal with anything that came at her - while still proving she is but a child doing the best she can in her situation. Besides these, there were also many humorous moments, which I'm glad for - I'm always a fan of being able to laugh at the lighter side of a book!
As the book is narrated wholly by Jacky it is unsurprising that there isn't a lot of deeper insight into other characters, though I can't help but be a little disappointed. I do hope that in future books secondary characters such as Jaimy, Liam and the other ship boys are developed a bit more and better. Overall however, Bloody Jack is a great read, at times both chilling and uplifting. I look forward to reading the rest of the series!