The best books for pirates who like a little magic in the mix

Why am I passionate about this?

I grew up on the coast of South Carolina, where many of the Golden Age pirates were welcomed as business associates and charming guests by some of the most influential people of the day. They are, to this day, considered local heroes. I read everything I could lay hands on about them, fiction and histories, and I knew my first book would have to be about the pirate I always pretended I could be, if I’d only been born two hundred years ago.


I wrote...

Book cover of Mad Kestrel

What is my book about?

In a world where infants with magical powers are torn from their parents to be raised by the mysterious and powerful Danisoba, who have a monopoly on magic, Kestrel has managed to keep her abilities concealed―and herself free.

As the quartermaster of a pirate ship, Kestrel loves the freedom of living on the seas. But her way of life could end if anyone on board learns her closely guarded secret. When Kestrel's captain is led into a trap and is arrested, she gathers her crew and sets sail in relentless pursuit, even knowing that revealing her own magic ability may be her only means to save him.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of On Stranger Tides

Misty Massey Why did I love this book?

I fell hard for Tim Powers’ brand of secret history stories, so when he decided to do his thing with pirates, I couldn’t have been more excited. Magical duels, voodoo deities, ghosts who desire a taste of rum and blood, treacherous sorcerers working together toward opposite goals and the most dangerous pirate ever to sail the seas all come together in a thrilling supernatural race to claim the blessings of the fabled Fountain of Youth.

By Tim Powers,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked On Stranger Tides as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Shortlisted for the World Fantasy Award
Shortlisted for the Locus Award for Best Fantasy Novel

1718: Puppeteer John Chandagnac has set sail for Jamaica to recover his stolen inheritance, when his ship is seized by pirates. Offered the choice to join the crew, or be killed where he stands, he decides that a pirate's life is better than none at all.

Now known as Jack Shandy, this apprentice buccaneer soon learns to handle a mainsail and wield a cutlass - only to discover he is now a subject of a Caribbean pirate empire ruled by one Edward Thatch, better known…


Book cover of Red Seas Under Red Skies

Misty Massey Why did I love this book?

If there’s anything I like as much as pirates, it’s heist stories. The excellent follow-up to the amazing Lies of Locke Lamora, Red Seas rang every one of my bells by taking our favorite thieving bastards Locke and Jean to sea, under the command of a strong, brilliant female captain, Zamira Drakasha. And she’s not just a woman pirate – she’s a middle-aged, Black single mother, running her ship and being the best pirate any denizen of the high seas could aspire to be. Lynch caught a good bit of flack for this character, but I was delighted. You will be, too.

By Scott Lynch,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Red Seas Under Red Skies as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Escaping from the attentions of the Bondsmagi Locke Lamora, the estwhile Thorn of Camorr and Jean Tannen have fled their home city. Taking ship they arrive in the city state of Tal Varrar where they are soon planning their most spectacular heist yet; they will take the luxurious gaming house, The Sinspire, for all of its countless riches.

No-one has ever taken even a single coin from the Sinspire that wasn't won on the tables or in the other games of chance on offer there.

But, as ever, the path of true crime rarely runs smooth and Locke and Jean…


Book cover of Ship of Magic

Misty Massey Why did I love this book?

Set in the same world as the celebrated Farseer series, this book takes us to the mystical, dangerous Rain Wilds, where shipbuilders harvest wizardwood. The precious and rare wood is used to build self-aware liveships. Trust me, there’s nothing more attractive to a pirate than a ship who can love her back! This book explores the gray shading of morality, with an enterprising pirate who hunts slave ships and frees the captives, in service to the goal of owning a liveship himself, and a young sailor fighting to regain the birthright unjustly taken from her.

By Robin Hobb,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Ship of Magic as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'As addictive as morphine' THE TIMES

From the author of the classic Farseer trilogy, SHIP OF MAGIC is the first part of the Liveship Traders. Set in a land bordering the Six Duchies, Robin Hobb begins her epic tale of pirates, talking ships, magic, sea serpents, slave revolts, dashing heroes and bloody battles.

Wizardwood, the most precious commodity in the world, comes only from the Rain Wilds. But only a liveship can negotiate the perilous waters of the Rain Wild River, and liveships are hard to come by. They quicken only when three family members from successive generations have died…


Book cover of The Queen of Swords

Misty Massey Why did I love this book?

I’ve been a fan of Anne Bonney (one of the most famous female pirates in history) since I was a kid. She strapped on a sword and went to sea at a time when women were expected to marry young and die in childbirth, so a story that sees her surviving the gallows was naturally going to appeal to me. There’s an ancient society of assassins fighting an age-old war, and a risky ocean voyage to rescue a kidnapped child and claim a legendary treasure hidden in a lost city of bones somewhere on the coast of Africa. Is it any wonder I was hooked? This is the third book in Belcher’s Golgotha series, but I think you could read it alone and enjoy the adventure.

By R. S. Belcher,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Queen of Swords as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

1720. Escaping the gallows, Anne Bonney, the infamous pirate queen, sets sail in search of a fabulous treasure said to be hiding in a lost city of bones somewhere in the heart of Africa. But what she finds is a destiny she never expected . . . .

1870. Maude Stapleton is a respectable widow raising a daughter on her own. Few know, however, that Maude belongs to an ancient order of assassins, the Daughters of Lilith, and heir to the legacy of Anne Bonney, whose swashbuckling exploits blazed a trail that Maude must now follow - if she ever…


Book cover of The Black God's Drums

Misty Massey Why did I love this book?

This one’s a little different – pirates sail the clouds instead of the ocean. In a world where Haiti won its freedom at a devastating cost, a young Black woman wants to earn a place on an airship, but can’t seem to find any way to prove her worth to the sky pirates she longs to join. Until she learns about a weapon called the Black God’s Drums, that someone plans to use to wipe New Orleans off the map. Add in the whispers of an orisha with its own agenda and a possible romantic attraction to the peg-legged Captain Ann-Marie, and you’ve got everything a pirate might want.

By P. Djèlí Clark,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Black God's Drums as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In an alternate New Orleans caught in the tangle of the American Civil War, the wall-scaling girl named Creeper yearns to escape the streets for the air - in particular, by earning a spot on-board the airship Midnight Robber. Creeper plans to earn Captain Ann-Marie's trust with information she discovers about a Haitian scientist and a mysterious weapon he calls The Black God's Drums.

But Creeper also has a secret herself: Oya, the African orisha of the wind and storms, speaks inside her head, and may have her own ulterior motivations.

Soon, Creeper, Oya, and the crew of the Midnight…


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Rip Current

By Sharon Ward,

Book cover of Rip Current

Sharon Ward Author Of In Deep

New book alert!

Why am I passionate about this?

Even as a kid, I was intrigued by the underwater world, so as an adult, I learned to scuba dive. I took to it like a fish to water, and my husband and I spent the next several years traveling to tropical islands to experience the local dive conditions whenever possible. I loved learning how every island had a different culture and a different undersea environment. Since I love tropical islands, scuba diving, mysteries, and adventure stories, these books really hit my sweet spot.

Sharon's book list on mysteries set on a tropical island

What is my book about?

Unsettled weather has caused life-threatening rip currents to sprout up seemingly at random in the usually tranquil sea around Grand Cayman. Despite posted warnings to stay out of the surf, several women lose their life when caught in the turbulent waters. Fin attempts some dangerous rescues, and nearly loses her own life in the process.

Meanwhile, Fin and the team at RIO are struggling to find more sources of funding for the Institute’s important research, and danger arises from an unexpected source while Fin and hot movie star Rafe Cummings are filming an upcoming documentary. When a young internet influencer…

Rip Current

By Sharon Ward,

What is this book about?

Unsettled weather has caused life-threatening rip currents to sprout up seemingly at random in the usually tranquil sea around Grand Cayman. Despite posted warnings to stay out of the surf, several women lose their life when caught in the turbulent waters. Fin attempts some dangerous rescues, and nearly loses her own life in the process.
Meanwhile, Fin and the team at RIO are struggling to find more sources of funding for the Institute’s important research, and danger arises from an unexpected source while Fin and hot movie star Rafe Cummings are filming an upcoming documentary.
Soon after a young internet…


5 book lists we think you will like!

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