Novels with swashbuckling?
August 7, 2006 8:06 AM   Subscribe

Recently I've been stricken with a definite yen to read novels involving swashbuckling and pirates, but then I realized I didn't know of any! (Except maybe for The Princess Bride.) I would very much love to read a fun, adventurous swashbuckling novel much in the same tack as the Monkey Island games and the Pirates of the Caribbean movies, something that promises to be a thrilling, guilty pleasure. Any recommendations?
posted by Lush to Media & Arts (36 answers total) 21 users marked this as a favorite
The classic pirate book, Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson is quite good.
posted by cardboard at 8:08 AM on August 7, 2006

Best answer: Try On Stranger Tides by Tim Powers.

I believe it is both awesome and exactly the kind of thing you are looking for. Exactly.
posted by Justinian at 8:13 AM on August 7, 2006

Neal Stephenson's Baroque Cycle is a great picaroon romance. it ranges a bit wide from 'swashbuckling,' which is not to say that there isn't any.
posted by carsonb at 8:15 AM on August 7, 2006

The books of Rafael Sabatini.
posted by bricoleur at 8:16 AM on August 7, 2006

On Stranger Tides

Obligatory amazon link.
posted by Justinian at 8:16 AM on August 7, 2006

The Count of Monte Cristo. Seriously. Pirates (although it does not center on them.) Poisonings. Treasure. Betrayal. Revenge. Swordfights. It's got everything. More than a thousand pages of roister-doistering potboiler goodness.
posted by buxtonbluecat at 8:17 AM on August 7, 2006

The Pyrates, by George MacDonald Fraser, author of the Flashman books. Very much a guilty pleasure; may be more tongue in cheek than you are after, but a perfect summer read.
posted by Clyde Mnestra at 8:21 AM on August 7, 2006

A High Wind in Jamaica by Richard Hughes
posted by subatomiczoo at 8:24 AM on August 7, 2006

You might think about reading some Robert E. Howard. There are some pirate stories there (not many), but the overall atmosphere is certainly swashbuckling.

Edgar Rice Burroughs is another great adventure writer. The first few John Carter books are great, and there is certainly piracy, but it's piracy on Mars.
posted by tcobretti at 8:26 AM on August 7, 2006

Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson have been writing prequels to Peter Pan. The first is Peter and the Starcatchers, the second (so far) is Peter and the Shadow Thieves. Quite good, honestly, even if you DO have to venture into the "children" section of the library/bookstore.
posted by DoctorFedora at 8:27 AM on August 7, 2006

Ellen Kushner's The Privilege of the Sword is fairly swashbuckling (it is the third book in a series, but can be read on its own). I just started Scott Lynch's The Lies of Locke Lamora and it's got a fair amount of derring-do--at least in the first hundred pages.
posted by eilatan at 8:32 AM on August 7, 2006

Ditto clyde. And Princess Bride, the novel, which buxton has doubtless encountered.
posted by Phred182 at 8:33 AM on August 7, 2006

My 11-year-old daughter loved Peter and the Starcatchers, FWIW. I, myself, read and enjoyed Peter Benchley's tale of modern-day pirates, The Island, when I was a lad, but I'm not sure how much an adult would like it--not saying that you won't, just that I don't remember much about the quality of the writing.
posted by MrMoonPie at 8:45 AM on August 7, 2006

Scott Lynch's first book: The Lies of Locke Lamora. Outstanding.
posted by i_am_a_Jedi at 9:18 AM on August 7, 2006

The Three Musketeers.

Seriously entertaining.
posted by beaucoupkevin at 9:23 AM on August 7, 2006

I strongly second the novels of Rafael Sabatini, especially these: Scaramouche (though not about pirates, but certainly swashbuckling---but skip Scaramouche the King Maker: unreadable), Captain Blood, Captain Blood Returns,... and then you're on your own. Wonderful, absolutely wonderful. Good source: Abebooks.

And for sea-borne adventure, you can't beat the series of Aubrey/Maturin novels by Patrick O'Brian. These must be read in order, since it's a long continuing story. The first three constitute a trilogy of sorts and are best enjoyed together: Master and Commander, Post Captain, and HMS Surprise. Your library will have these.
posted by LeisureGuy at 9:38 AM on August 7, 2006

Seconding On Stranger Tides. Were I Tim Powers, I would have sued the pants off the Pirates of the Caribbean folks a few times over.

You can also consider some of the Napoleonic nautical fiction out there as suitably swash. While your Hornblowers and your Aubreys may be too stodgy for a good fit for your needs, Captain Alan "Ram-Cat" Lewrie, created by Dewey Lambdin, is likely up your ally. Be ye a landlubber, then most of Bernard Cornwell's serieses (Sharpe's Rifles, Grail Trilogy, Arthur Trilogy, etc) are likewise full of rough and tumble fighters who play by no rules but their own.

Holy shit, there's a new Powers novel out tomorrow?
posted by robocop is bleeding at 9:42 AM on August 7, 2006

Kushner's Swordspoint; Heinlein's Glory Road; Leiber's Fafhrd & Gray Mouser series. No pirates, but lots of swashbuckling. Nth On Stranger Tides (and if you like that move on to The Anubis Gates, Declare, Last Call, The Stress of Her Regard -- no pirates, but wonderful Tim Powers weirdness.)
posted by Zed_Lopez at 9:49 AM on August 7, 2006

The Pirates! in an Adventure with Scientists is comical and mildly adventurous. There's now a sequel.

I enjoyed, Guild Specialists #01: Operation Red Jericho last year, too. It's young adult, to be sure, and will have a sequel soon. (To tell the truth, I bought it for the packaging, which is lovely, and stayed for the story.)

I'll second (third or fourth) Dave Barry's books, too. While sometimes humorous, it's much more about the adventure than the comedy. However, if you're a fan of the original stories you may be disappointed by how drastically different the backstory is for Peter.
posted by yamel at 11:17 AM on August 7, 2006

Clyde mentioned George MacDonald Fraser's Pyrates. My own favorite Fraser swashbuckler is Royal Flash, which combines swordplay, evil plots, not a little bodice heaving, 19th century Continental politics, and truly epic amounts of cowardice.
posted by Iridic at 11:27 AM on August 7, 2006

Definitely The Three Musketeers, assuming you get a good translation it's funny, thrilling, romantic and has as much buckle and swash as you could ever ask for. No pirates though, but musketeer hats look sorta like pirate hats. And there are swords.
posted by biscotti at 11:27 AM on August 7, 2006

If I may promote a secondary source: Wordsworth Press' Dictionary of Pirates is one of my very favorite reference books. It has little one paragraph entries pirate-related terminology, pirate haunts, pirate techniques, and on hundreds of historical pirates that the non-piratologist has never heard of. Each entry makes for an entertaining micro-story, even if the ends are depressingly similar: "He was hanged in..." Great book to pick up and read for thirty seconds at a time.
posted by nflorin at 11:36 AM on August 7, 2006

A third vote for the Three Musketeers. No pirates, but it's as swashbuckling as you can get. Mystery and intrigue ensue.
posted by yeti at 12:51 PM on August 7, 2006

Although not specifically pertaining to the buckling of swash, a nonetheless thrilling and excellent high-seas adventure story is The Sea Wolf by Jack London.
posted by baphomet at 1:24 PM on August 7, 2006

"Jamaica Inn" by Daphne DuMaurier.
posted by AmbroseChapel at 1:56 PM on August 7, 2006

Nth the Three Musketeers. Perhaps the greatest swashbuckling novel of all time, to which I treat myself a reread every couple of years. The sequels 20 years after and the Vicomte de Bragalonne are entertaining for the serious fan, but not up to the same standard.

The Aubrey-Maturin novels might be just what you are looking for. Plenty of swash and buckle, and cracking good writing that will really immerse you in the English Royal Navy during the Napoleonic wars. The quality holds up throughout the series too.

The Horatio Hornblower novels have a bit more action, and are perhaps less sophisticated, but quite as good in their own way.
posted by Manjusri at 3:03 PM on August 7, 2006

Captain Blood
posted by jdroth at 7:15 PM on August 7, 2006

I second On Stranger Tides. As in, I watched Pirates of the Carribean, and thought well, it was good, but it was no On Stranger Tides, was it? One of the best 70 cents I ever spent.
posted by obiwanwasabi at 9:21 PM on August 7, 2006

Erica Jong's Fanny has piracy as part of the plot, as do some of the books in Diana Gabaldon's Outlander series.
posted by brujita at 10:38 PM on August 7, 2006

I'll second the hornblower series
posted by mule at 1:27 AM on August 8, 2006

More of a sci-fi bent, the Amber series, by Roger Zelazny.
The books are short, light reading, and all six combined would be the size of one large novel. The first book (Nine Princes in Amber) is only so-so, and then the goodness just continually ramps up until you can't put them down.

He wrote another six Amber books after that, but they have a decidedly fantasy flavour to them.
posted by -harlequin- at 1:39 AM on August 8, 2006

(The Amber series is 5 and 5, not 6 and 6. All ten are available in one huge omnibus.)
posted by Zed_Lopez at 9:37 AM on August 8, 2006

blackbeard anne bonny and mary read
posted by baker dave at 10:51 AM on August 8, 2006

Flashman's Lady has a good pirate section as well. They're river pirates though.
posted by Mocata at 1:59 PM on August 9, 2006

Both with a romantic bent: "The Witch from the Sea" by Lisa Jensen, and "Frenchman's Creek" by Daphne Du Maurier.
posted by of strange foe at 8:09 PM on August 9, 2006

Response by poster: On Stranger Tides? Touché!
posted by Lush at 6:29 AM on September 25, 2006

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