Verdict: Visceral and at times brutal, MUDDIED WATERS is an educated and historically realistic rendering of piracy on the high seas in the Middles Ages.
Rodrigo Da Cunha and his crew aboard the Portuguese warship, the Abismo, are off the coast of the French colony of Reunion when they are boarded by a group of pirates under the control of their hard-nosed but eloquent captain, Jackson Teague. Fortunately for Da Cunha and his crew, the pirates are in the mood to give quarter, even though they relieve the Abismo of its vast hoard of gold and precious items set for delivery to the king of Portugal’s royal halls. It is a decision the pirate captain Teague later regrets. Fearing reprisal for losing the king’s wealth, Da Cunha and his second in command, Carlos Belo, make the unlikely and probably feckless decision to give chase, recover the lost hoard, and bring the gang of sea thieves to justice.
On paper, the story’s overview sounds a bit trite and formulaic, but Clarkson builds the narrative with such indelible character portraits that it ultimately succeeds in alluring readers. An interesting aspect of the book is its tendency to dwell on the personal dramas of the pirates, as if the author finds the scallywag villains more complicated and interesting than the semi-noble, pragmatic, and family-oriented Da Cunha, who only occupies a small portion of the book’s circumspect narrative, which delves into the lives of a number of passing, transient characters. Some fascinating aspects of the book include its commitment to realism—the story rarely feels contrived to induce an effect in the readers—and its introduction of scenes between the pirates that suggest a thin line exists between their villainous life and the royal navy struggling to locate them among a vast sea of ships and ports spanning the Atlantic.
Conceptually, the adventure story is loosely based on the story of Nuno da Cunha, a Portuguese governor of India possessions who hunted down pirates in the 1500s, although, for some reason, the author has elected to use a slightly different full name for da Cunha, as if to make the point that he is taking liberty with the historical facts.
Visceral and at times brutal, MUDDIED WATERS is an educated and historically realistic rendering of piracy on the high seas in the Middles Ages.
~MP Gunderson for IndieReader