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Vampirates: Demons of the Ocean

by Justin Somper
Little, Brown Books for Young Readers (October 4, 2006)

Forget Twilight or Vampire Diaries or whatever else. What you want to be reading right now is Vampirates. So. Much. Fun. I discovered Justin Somper’s series quite by accident. I was in the juvenile section of the library with my son looking for Lemony Snicket. Vampirates was on a special display nearby. When I saw the cover I said, “Yes, please.”

Really, the idea of vampires that are pirates is so perfectly overthetop that I’m surprised no one had thought of it sooner. I mean, check out the lyrics of the song that comes up again and again in the story:

I’ll tell you a tale of Vampirates,
A tale as old as true.
Yea, I’ll sing you a song of an ancient ship,
And its mighty fearsome crew.
Yea, I’ll sing you a song of an ancient ship
That sails the oceans blue . . .
That haunts the oceans blue.

The Vampirate ship has tattered sails
That flap like wings in flight.
They say that the captain, he wears a veil
So as to curtail your fright
At his death-pale skin
And his lifeless eyes
And his teeth as sharp as night.
Oh, they say that the captain, he wears a veil
And his eyes never see the light.

Awesome, right?

 
The story centers around twins Connor and Grace Tempest. Their father was the lighthouse keeper of Crescent Moon Bay, and we learn quickly that Connor and Grace are destined for far greater things than life in the petty little town with its even pettier inhabitants. Connor and Grace consider the lighthouse their home, but when their father dies, they discover that he left so much debt, that the bank has taken the lighthouse, its contents, and their father’s boat. With few options before then, they steal their own boat, their first act of piracy, and set out to sea, only to be caught up into a mysterious storm that destroys the boat completely.

Connor and Grace are separated in the chaos of the storm and as Connor tries to find Grace, he sees a terrifying ancient ship with wings like great black wings on the horizon. He then finds himself yanked out of the ocean by pirates of The Diablo, captained by the infamous Molucco Wrathe. Connor eventually realizes that Grace must have been rescued by the Vampirates.

 
Lorcan Furey

And she has. Grace finds herself rescued by hottie vampire-pirate Lorcan Furey. Luckily for her, Lorcan and the mysterious Captain of the ship decide that hiding her is the best course of action, especially since she has arrived on board on the night of an event called The Feast. But our Grace is a spunky girl and her curiosity quickly gets her into more hot water than she can handle. Will she end up as a “guest” at The Feast? Will Connor and Grace ever be reunited? Why does Connor take to pirating so naturally? Is Lorcan telling the truth when he swears he will never hurt her? Why does the Captain wear a chain mail mask? And why is Grace so ravenously hungry for the food that mysteriously appears in her cabin, the best food she has ever tasted? Moreoever, why does she always fall into a deep sleep after she eats it? All these questions and more, played out against more swashbuckling and sea shanties than you can shake a cutlass at.

 

Truly, the swashbuckling is what makes Vampirates so fun. It’s not exactly a “deep” book, shall we say. But fun, fun, fun. It is set in 2505 but has a real piratey eighteenth-century sensibility about it. Pirate tropes abound. The pirate ship Diablo may be a fierce bunch of mauraders, but the captain is a gentleman with a heart of gold and all the scurvy pirates love each other like family. They are, in fact, more generous, loving, and kind than the townsfolk back at Crescent Moon Bay. Actually, the Vampirates are more loving and kind than those lot and that’s saying a lot. Connor, unappreciated in Crescent Moon Bay, thrives as a pirate. Grace, strangely, curious and bold, thrives on the Vampirate ship. Lorcan Furey, with long black hair and gorgeous blue eyes, is fiercely devoted to Grace. Lorcan even has a special ring—a claddaugh ring. But the hands on his ring hold a skull instead of a heart, of course. The mysterious Captain of the Vampirates doesn’t believe in slaughtering humans for blood and his ship is, in fact, a haven of sorts for vampires who long for a different life than the one of darkness and depravity that most live on land.

It’s pretty clear that Vampirates: Demons of the Ocean is meant to set up the whole series and introduce characters. But I still devoured it in a few hours and immediately went to Amazon to order the next three. And if someone ever wises up and decides to make a movie version of the series, it’s going to be awesome.

You can find out all about the Vampirate world at the official website. Check it out. It’s fun too.