4 stars · Fantasy · fiction · romance · young adult

Steel by Carrie Vaughn


Author: Carrie Vaughn

Pages [hardcover]: 294

Favorite Characters: Henry & Cooper


It was a slender length of rusted steel, tapered to a point at one end and jagged at the other, as if it had broken. A thousand people would step over it and think it trash, but not her.

This was the tip of a rapier.

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’m not sure how I feel about this book. There were some points that I really, really loved, and others that I could have done without. Overall, I loved the entire piracy idea, and the plot kept me wanting more.

I’ll start with the negative, because there’s less of that, and it’s good to get it out of the way. I don’t think there was any one point in the story where Jill actually considered the fact that she’d traveled through time to the past. Maybe it’s just me, but I’d have been freaking out about that, instead of immediately accepting it as it was and hiding it so others wouldn’t think I was crazy. Her reactions didn’t make much sense. She kept talking about ‘going home’-but never acknowledged that home was three hundred years in the future, except for one point in the last few pages.

Now that that’s out of the way, I’ll move onto fencing. To be honest, I’ve never really thought about the sport, either way, except that it looks like it’d be a fun thing to try. But Jill is good at it-better than good, because she might be heading for the Olympics. This is one of my favorite things about her. It makes her unique, and also like anyone else-she hates to lose. Plus, it makes her adventures in piracy seem more realistic, because if she hadn’t had this training and picked up a rapier, she’d have been dead in moments. Not much of a story there.

And, see? I learned, without even realizing it. I couldn’t have really told you about what a rapier was before, or a beat, or any fencing terms. The chapters are all named after things and moves in fencing, and there’s a nifty glossary in the back that defines all of them.

The supporting characters were all wonderfully defined and I loved hearing their back stories as they emerged. Jill felt a little bland compared to them at times, but I never stopped rooting for her. Besides, who can really compare to pirates and come out on top?



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