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A. S. Peterson – The Fiddler’s Gun

May 27, 2011

65. The Fiddler’s Gun by A. S. Peterson (2009)
Fin’s Revolution, Book 1

Length: 293 pages
Genre: Historical Fiction

Started: 08 May 11
Finished: 11 May 11

Where did it come from? Downloaded from Amazon.
Why do I have it? Amy’s fault.
How long has it been on my TBR pile? Since 30 April 2011. (well, on the eTBR pile, anyways)

Fin’s been an orphan,
a sailor, and a pirate,
but never chosen.

Summary: Phinea Button was abandoned at a South Carolina orphanage by parents who had already produced twelve girls. Fin grows up to be quite a tomboy, more interested in playing with her only friend, Peter, and getting into fights than in becoming a proper lady. The sisters in charge of the orphanage, despairing of her behavior, place Fin in the kitchen to assist Bartimaeus, the aging cook. Bartimaeus takes Fin under his wing, but when his dark past catches up to him, Fin’s life is thrown into turmoil once more. And it’s not just Fin’s life; the entire colony is in a state of unrest, chafing under British rule on the eve of the American Revolution. Fin has a series of encounters with British soldiers before she makes a rash decision that has her fleeing from the orphanage, and finding work on a sailing ship. But while Fin loves the ocean and its accompanying sense of freedom, she’s still dogged by her past and her new-found reputation… and the accompanying danger that will come to threaten everything she holds dear.

Review: On the whole, I enjoyed this book quite a bit. It had a number of story elements that I tend to really like, including girls dressing as boys to join the military (well, a trading ship with a letter of marque in this case, but same difference), and nautical adventures and piracy. The prose is well-written, very lyrical and evocative yet still easy to read. Fin’s a great character, and watching her funnel her insecurities and loneliness and heartbreak into her fierce stubborn independence felt familiar and real. I found myself thinking about her when I had to put the book down, and I was always eager to pick it back up, which is a good sign for any novel.

She stretched out her arms and began to play. Sound eddied out of the fiddle on a wave of notes as long and deep as grief itself. She poured all her broken pieces into the song and offered them up, struggling to weave notes enough to mend a heart so finely shattered. The song lifted her, lightened her, each note siphoned out bitterness and in its place left something as pure and sweet as rainwater. Her song rose and spiraled and sailed as a cool wind blew off the river and carried leaves, whirling, into the air like dervishes wrapping her in a tree-fallen lament. –Location 1853

However, I had a few issues with this book that are only cropping up now that I’ve finished. First, while Peterson uses the American Revolution as a backdrop to his story, it doesn’t come into play until late-ish in the book, and in the early chapters, his setting is not as clearly evoked as it could have been. If I hadn’t known better, I might have thought that the early chapters in the orphanage took place in the Great Depression rather than pre-revolutionary times. It’s not the kind of story that requires large swaths of description about the furniture and the dresses, etc., but if the setting’s going to be important later, it’s worth talking about the furniture and the dresses at least a little to properly set your stage, y’know?

Secondly, I can’t help but compare Fin to Jacky Faber from the Bloody Jack series. They’re about 30 years apart, and hail from different sides of the Atlantic, but otherwise Fin and Jacky are just so similar. Both orphans, both disguised as a boy to join the crew of a sailing ship, both somewhat unwittingly turn pirate, both have a fearsome bloodthirsty reputation (with appropriate nickname) back on shore, both in love with a boy they don’t see for months or years at a time, both wanted by the British for their crimes, etc., etc. The books are obviously geared towards different demographics, and are very different in tone, but their narrators are so similar that it’s impossible for me not to compare them… and while Jacky’s just as fierce and courageous and stubborn as Fin is, she’s also a lot more lively. Not that I didn’t enjoy The Fiddler’s Gun – I did, for sure – but in comparison it just felt like it was missing the tiniest bit of spark. 4 out of 5 stars.

Recommendation: Worth reading for people who like historical fiction, books about the American Revolution, orphans, and/or pirates.

This Review on LibraryThing | This Book on LibraryThing | This Book on Amazon

Other Reviews: Book Journey, The Book Pirate, Books, Movies, & Chinese Food, The Eclectic Reader, A Few More Pages, My Friend Amy, Sophisticated Dorkiness
Have you reviewed this book? Leave a comment with the link and I’ll add it in.

First Line: The trouble with Phineas Michael Button began the moment she was born.

Vocab: (see the whole list)

  • Location 3288: “He considered Topper with odium then passed to Bill and his look lightened to something of a disgusted tolerance.” – intense hatred or dislike, especially toward a person or thing regarded as contemptible, despicable, or repugnant.
    .
  • Location 3666: “Out and out piracy was another animal altogether, and it usually ended with a sailor swinging on the gallows’ howe.” – a hollow; dell.
    .
  • Location 3736: “As the crew had agreed, they put in to Charleston for provisions, and while there, Jack and Tan managed to eke out a few good sailors of dubious ethical declination to bolster the crew.” – a swerving or deviating, as from a standard.
    .

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15 Comments leave one →
  1. May 27, 2011 12:22 pm

    The plot isn’t a big draw for me, but that cover is gorgeous! :)

    • May 27, 2011 2:26 pm

      Alyce – Isn’t it nice? That’s one drawback to my Kindle, that I don’t get the nice big pretty covers to look at up close.

  2. May 27, 2011 12:46 pm

    Oh, I like all the things that you mention. Have to see if I can get a copy!

    • May 27, 2011 2:29 pm

      Kailana – Can you do e-books? The Kindle version’s still only 99¢…

  3. May 27, 2011 8:09 pm

    Oo, good reminder to go read the Jacky Faber books! This looks charming too, of course, but I have seriously been meaning to read Jacky Faber for years.

    • May 30, 2011 9:46 am

      Jenny – They’re super-fun! (Totally silly, of course, but fun!) I think I read the first four books (which were all that were out at the time) in less than a week…

  4. May 27, 2011 11:02 pm

    Historical fiction is definitely not my thing in general, but my goodness that is a lovely quote. I am such a sucker for pretty language. And feisty female characters.

    I am bookmarking you, just thought you should know :)

    • May 30, 2011 9:47 am

      Chelsea – If you like pretty language and feisty female characters, maybe The Fiddler’s Gun will change your mind about historical fiction! :)

  5. May 28, 2011 1:18 pm

    I loved this book! But then again, I’m a sucker for books with pirates. I’ve been meaning to pick up The Fiddler’s Green soon.

    • May 30, 2011 9:48 am

      Colin Matthew – I am also a sucker for pirates, or any book with boys (or, in this case, girls dressed as boys) on boats, really.

  6. May 28, 2011 3:58 pm

    I love the covers, too. I’m glad you liked it…I haven’t read that other series (or even heard of it) I’ll have to check it out!

    • May 30, 2011 9:48 am

      Amy – The Bloody Jack books are completely different in tone and audience and voice, but they’re a lot of fun! I hope you like them!

  7. May 30, 2011 3:10 pm

    I don’t think I’d heard of this one before, but it sounds good and I love the cover too! :)

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