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

Who am I?

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...

Mad Kestrel

By Misty Massey,

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.

The books I picked & why

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On Stranger Tides

By Tim Powers,

Book cover of On Stranger Tides

Why 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.


Red Seas Under Red Skies

By Scott Lynch,

Book cover of Red Seas Under Red Skies

Why 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.

Ship of Magic

By Robin Hobb,

Book cover of Ship of Magic

Why 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.


The Queen of Swords

By R.S. Belcher,

Book cover of The Queen of Swords

Why 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.


The Black God's Drums

By P. Djèlí Clark,

Book cover of The Black God's Drums

Why 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.


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in piracy, Pirates, and casinos?

5,309 authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about piracy, Pirates, and casinos.

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And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

We think you will like Under the Black Flag, How I Became a Pirate, and Bold in Her Breeches if you like this list.