The best pirate crews and the books that created them

Jeremy McLean Author Of Blackbeard's Freedom: A Historical Fantasy Pirate Adventure Novel
By Jeremy McLean

Who am I?

I've been interested in pirates for as long as I can remember. Hearing about Blackbeard, Calico Jack, Henry Morgan, and Anne Bonney, among others, made my imagination run wild. Learning about who they really were as I grew up made me interested in why they were the way they were. I love stories about pirate crews, especially ones that explore the why of how they became pirates. I also love fantasy stories as you can plainly see (I even cheated to include a favourite of mine) and I wanted to combine the two in my first series.


I wrote...

Blackbeard's Freedom: A Historical Fantasy Pirate Adventure Novel

By Jeremy McLean,

Book cover of Blackbeard's Freedom: A Historical Fantasy Pirate Adventure Novel

What is my book about?

The Voyages of Queen Anne's Revenge is a historical fantasy series about Blackbeard's transformation from a simple whaler to the dreaded pirate of fame like Pirates of the Caribbean meets Indiana Jones.

On the run from the law, Edward Thatch must gather a crew of outcasts and outlaws while solving a series of deadly puzzles across the Caribbean left by the former owner of his ship. You know the legend; now find out how his name became synonymous with pirates in this adventure set in the golden age of piracy.

The books I picked & why

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Peter and Wendy

By James Matthew Barrie,

Book cover of Peter and Wendy

Why this book?

How could I not include this classic pirate crew with a ship named after the very flags pirates fly? The Jolly Roger and Hook are undoubtedly the most recognizable figures amongst fictional pirates.

The Jolly Roger crew is on my list because it's a whole new experience reading it as an adult and because of the differences between Disney and the source material. The Jolly Roger was large, imposing, and the crew a fearsome, bloodthirsty bunch. The captain, Hook, is the perfect antithesis to Peter's childish attitude. He's handsome, well educated, and used the hook not just as a weapon but also to smoke two cigars at once. What's not to love?

If you've only watched the Disney movie, you owe it to yourself to read the book.


Red Seas Under Red Skies

By Scott Lynch,

Book cover of Red Seas Under Red Skies

Why this book?

This sequel to The Lies of Locke Lamora brings pirates to a fantasy setting in ways that no other fantasy series has. The author brings to life a crew that truly feels real, with history in the fictional world that mirrors that of real pirates.

The captain, Zamira Drakasha, and her first mate are well-rounded and believable characters that jump off the page. They are brave, witty, strong, and intelligent, just as any captain should be.

Scott Lynch is the type of author that I aspire to be, and each of his books is unique and different, yet all fall neatly in line with a series. In this book, he has smartly written female characters who could and should have their own series.


A Wizard of Earthsea

By Ursula K. Le Guin,

Book cover of A Wizard of Earthsea

Why this book?

This one's a bit of a cheat because the Wizard Ged isn't a pirate, and he's usually just a crew of one on his boat Lookfar, but it's worthy of inclusion in any book list.

A Wizard of Earthsea is a classic fantasy story that doesn't feature on many lists of the best fantasy novels, which is a shame because it truly deserves more love.

I love this story because it is so singular. It has a full coming-of-age story about a person searching for salvation. While you might guess the twist at the end of the story, it's no less compelling in its execution. Facing fears, sailing tumultuous seas, adventure, and a bit of magic all make it a fantastic journey worth reading.


On Stranger Tides

By Tim Powers,

Book cover of On Stranger Tides

Why this book?

On Stranger Tides is a once-in-a-lifetime adventure novel, and it has something for everyone. Action, black magic, voodoo, zombies, and of course, pirates.

The crew and those who command them are true pirates, loyal only to themselves and with no scruples beyond achieving the greatest score they can. They include real pirates such as Blackbeard and Stede Bonnet and creations of villainy in Benjamin Hurwood and Leo Friend. There are, of course, good characters in the crew as well, and it's the conflict between the two sides that creates tension in the book.

This book was certainly a big inspiration in my writing and is a true adventure from beginning to end.


One Piece

By Eiichiro Oda,

Book cover of One Piece

Why this book?

This may be a strange pick for some, but it is one of my favourite stories. It's something I grew up with and is very influential and inspirational to me.

The crew of the Going Merry become like family, not just on the pages but also personally. Ask anyone who loves One Piece, and they will tell you that they feel attached to the characters as if they're real. You get to see them overcoming adversity and loss, and with the help of their found family, they keep moving towards their dreams over and over again.

The author creates a world where it feels like anything can happen and yet still remains grounded in that world. Given a chance, I would go there in a heartbeat, provided I can join the crew of the future Pirate King.


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