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The Black Ship: A Novel of Crosspointe by Diana Pharaoh Francis
Review by Mel Jacob
Roc Paperback  ISBN/ITEM#: 9780451462428
Date: 04 November 2008 List Price $7.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /

Diana Francis' second fantasy novel in the Crosspoint series, The Black Ship, focuses on Pilot Thorn. The Pilots' guild 'sells' him to the owner of a black ship, one that operates outside the law. Disowned by his guild, he sinks in deep despair and self-pity. His life has been a constant struggle against overwhelming odds and all for naught. His love of the sea drives him to take any option that lets him exercise his skills.

The Inland Sea, a treacherous body of black water, requires all the skills of a good pilot and a competent ship captain and crew to bring a vessel safely to harbor. However, four charmers, sailors who survived three wrecks kidnap Thorn. Sailors and captains consider such men bad luck. They also dislike whistling aboard ship and cats. Thorn has no regard for such superstitions. His cat Fitch accompanies everywhere he goes.

Faced with a choice of returning to the sea aboard a black ship or escaping and remaining on land, he throws his lot in with the crew of the black ship. Once a sailor, he holds his crews in love and respect, unlike most Pilots. Crews remain leery of Thorn, but know their safety depends on his skill.

When he discovers the stern and possibly deranged Leighton Plusby as the captain, he faces another obstacle. Plusby also hates the four charmers because he blames them for the loss of his wife. She disappeared when her ship sank and no trace of her was ever found.

Plusby takes a dislike to Thorn, and they battle one another over control of the ship. Both are needed to complete the ship's mission, as is every one in the crew. Mysterious orders keyed to the touch of the two men provide guidance for the mission.

As if the dangers of the sea are not enough, the crew must battle Jutras ships as well. The bloodthirsty Jutras seek to conquer the world and covet both pilots and ship compasses. Both are needed to navigate the Inland Sea.

Pirates attack the ship, and someone empties the water casks. That person is determined to sabotage the voyage and tries to kill Thorn. A monumental storm adds more hazards.

An accomplished writer, Francis spins an exciting tale with plenty of challenges and dangers. Those who like sea yarns will find the novel an exciting read. The first novel in the Crosspoint series, The Cipher, details the history of Lucy Templeton and how she becomes a magic user and owner of a black ship. The next, due in late spring of 2009, The Turning Tide, wraps up the series. With such a rich and complex world, Francis has plenty of material for other novels.

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