Continuing with my intake of pirate-themed books and tv this year, we have Cinnamon and Gunpowder! A delicious (haha) and fun story from the point of view of a master chef named Owen in the 1800s who is kidnapped by an infamous pirate captain known as Mad Hannah Mabbot: Mabbot has killed Owen’s previous employer, and takes him on to her ship with the intention of making him prepare for her a delicious meal every Sunday. From this basic premise we see Owen struggle to try and escape, as well as to figure out how exactly to prepare fancy meals aboard a ship with little in the way of tools or ingredients. We also see how he seemingly becomes part of the crew, and therefore entangled in Mabbot’s journeys and desire to bring down a massive trading empire which has effectively crippled the lives of farmers in various countries due to the demand of the opium trade.
This novel has a lot going for it, in terms of character and action. But what I always love to see in any pirate story is a movement away from simply being raucous on the high seas: there is more to Mabbot and her motivations, in regards to the slave trade as well as colonialism and its effect on the citizens of the world. So while this is really a fun story, it is not purely empty, and they do touch on a few other serious topics that maybe could have been spoken on a bit more as they briefly flew by, but ultimately I think the balance of seriousness versus levity is pretty good here, sliding more to the light side of things at most times.
I did however have a bit of trouble getting into this one at first, and I think it may be to do with Owen himself as the main narrator: he goes through character development throughout the novel, but it really did take me quite some time to warm up to him and his rigid belief systems. It almost seemed like a bit much at first, a too difficult a barrier to break at times, but perhaps it is also because many of his thoughts are so traditional yet so different from my own. And then after this difficulty to get going, the end portion of the novel seemed to almost fly by with activity and action, so the pace was a little off for me at times.
Ultimately, however, Cinnamon and Gunpowder was not a bad read by any means, and definitely a good addition to the much needed break from some of the really emotionally heavy stuff I was getting into for a while there. Will it be super memorable to me at the end of the day? Probably not, but I’m not unhappy that I took the time to read it!
CBR10 Bingo Square: Delicious!