Friday, June 8, 2012
The Black Swan by Rafael Sabatini
Miss Priscilla Harradine is travelling back to England from the Caribbean after her father's death, attended by the pompous Major Sands, when their ship is attacked and captured by the fearsome pirate Tom Leach in his ship the Black Swan. The only man who can save them is Charles de Bernis, the fascinating French adventurer who joined their ship just before the attack--a former buccaneer himself, a lieutenant of Henry Morgan, and an excellent swordsman. Surrounded by pirates of the foulest complexion, with two people relying on him and a secret plot of his own to carry out--M. de Bernis is going to need all his wits to get out of this one.
This is marshmallow literature, light on character, theme, and even plot. While Sabatini wrote a few good books (Captain Blood, for example), this is not one of them. Although the book never really dragged, the plot is so insubstantial that I felt it could have been half the length--and indeed, it's as I suspected: it started life as the short story, The Duel on the Beach, before Sabatini expanded it into novel form.
I begin to think that Sabatini was one of those mediocre writers--the type that has one or two good books in him, but then writes twenty.