Reviewed by Sandra Scholes
The year is 1671 and after watching his mother suffer brutality at the hands of three of the most feared pirates in history, Leo vows he will avenge her death one day when he is older. Gabriella is a young woman married to Erik, a cruel Dutch slave trader. Erik rules the house with an iron fist. He is an irascible man, prone to violent mood swings and always finds fault with his wife and his slave, Klara. Gabriella lives in fear of Erik and hopes for the day when she and Klara can flee without being found.
One of the interesting parts of the story is at the beginning as Gabriella wants to get away from her cruel husband, while Leo wants to get close to the pirates who killed his mother, and that in turn takes him closer to her husband. Gabriella grows from being a sensitive, downtrodden woman, to being a strong, independent woman who wants to help others, like Klara out of difficult and dangerous situations. She is ill-equipped for life in the jungle of the island of Sayba, but her life is worth nothing if she is caught by either Erik or his men. Leo has seen his mother die at the hands of Tarr’s men, and seeks his revenge, yet he is a decent man, even at sea. He is often fair with his men, and has braved death attempting to kill Tarr, Blake and Hornigold.
The author shows a real grasp of all things pirate, and has clearly researched in depth about what life would have been like on board a ship for both the captain and crew of the Sound of Freedom. The setting and the characters feel right for the time period, and it is easy to switch off from modern life to tune into the story as it seems believable. It is easy to get to the heart of the people involved, and the author doesn’t concentrate on the main characters alone. The story is gritty and realistic, and as a result gives a more realistic account of how people would have behaved during that time. Jungle life has a detrimental effect on the slaves, and Gabriella and Klara; the disease, the venomous wildlife, and the terrible heat of the location all serve to put the reader there into the thick of period Caribbean life. Having Gabriella and Klara on board isn’t a good idea for the men, but Leo likes the thought of having Erik’s wife and slave to use as a pawn to get what he wants, yet he sees in her a wildness that reminds him of Magdalena. He senses Gabriella is afraid of men, even Leo being around her, and all he wants to do is put her at ease. She is a free woman along with Klara, but life on board a ship like the Sound of Freedom isn’t made for women on the run and he can’t expose the men to them and risk Gabriella being hurt, or worse.
It takes a while for the romance to start, but when it does, Gabriella finds that Leo isn’t the man she thought he was, he is a better man than her husband, and he can show her what that means. Dead Reckoning is more than just a romance novel, it acts as a personal account of life in pirate days that is extensive and gripping.
Dead Reckoning was long-listed in the 2011 Mslexia Novel Competition and is the second book in the Valkyerie series. It tells of the losses and danger associated with piracy in the Caribbean during the Seventeenth Century. There are several books in the Valkyrie series including, An Ill Wind (Valkyrie Series 1), Ready About! (Valkyrie Series 3) which is set for a 2913 release, and Shadowfall (Valkyrie Series 4) which is set for a 2014 release. As a novella and K A Perkins’s first book, Gabriella Berryngton had high hopes for a better life in another land, but aged only 14, she realises she must have been so naive.