The Princess and The Captain is one of my all time favourite reads. This novel brings together everything I love about reading: it has adventure, fantasy, romance, loss, and a whole lot of sailing concealed in its 400 odd pages. It is my definition of perfect.
The book begins in two halves; we have Malva, the Princess, and Orpheus, the wannabe seaman, taking the chapters in turn. This is called a split narrative. Malva is planning to run away from her family and her arranged marriage to a man twice her age, whilst Orpheus is dealing with his father’s illness and eventual confession that Orpheus does not suffer brain damage to stop him sailing the seas. In fact, Orpheus is soon to discover that his father was not the saviour of the country that his country had rewarded him for and was actually a pirate! Shocking! Malva runs away with the help of the Archont, the man in charge of her education and the King’s second in command, and ends up on the Estafor, a trading ship on the way to a neighbouring country.
It turns out the Archont was actually after Malva’s fathers throne and had paid the ship men to desert Malva, and her chambermaid Philomena, to be shipwrecked. They survive however, and escape to the mountains where they meet a tribe who protect them. In an attack on the tribe, Malva is taken to the Orient to be enslaved in an Emperors harem. The Archont then finds her and tries yet again to kill her. However, news that Malva is trapped had reached her home and her father sent ships on men to save her - including those who will become the heroes of the story: Orpheus, Babilas, Finopico, Hobb and Peppe. They rescue Malva and her new friend Lei and escape just as a war breaks out. It’s all very dramatic.
Then, on the way home, they are wrecked in a storm and find themselves in an unknown world called the Archipelago. Here they face a number of difficult and life-changing challenges whilst being chased by the Archont who has followed them into the Archipelago in pursuit of Malva. It is here too that Orpheus and Malva find themselves in love, the Princess and the Captain, which is a whole other issue for the characters to overcome in this complex and heart-wrenching novel.
Will the sea-fearing heroes and heroines make it out of the Archipelago alive? Will the Archont catch up to Malva? Will Malva and Orpheus overcome the restraints of their ranks? Will they ever make it back home? If they do, what will they find? I think you already know I’m not going to answer those questions for you!
This is a reasonably easy read for a developed reader, but it is jam packed full of adventure and fantasy so you can never get bored with it. It also has some seriously sad and tearful moments. Basically this book has everything and you should give it a try!