Pirate Queen: The Legend of Grace O’Malley by Tony Lee & Sam Hart

Posted May 18, 2019 by Amber in Reviews / 0 Comments

Pirate Queen:  The Legend of Grace O’Malley by Tony Lee & Sam Hart

Pirate Queen: The Legend of Grace O'Malley by Sam Hart, Tony Lee


Published by Candlewick Press on April 16, 2019
Series: Heroes and Heroines #4
Genres: Adventure, Graphic Novels, History, Middle Grade, Pirates, Sequential Art
Length: 128 pages Source: LibraryThing Early Reviewers

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A true daughter of the fearsome O'Malley clan, Grace spent her life wishing to join the fight to keep Henry VIII's armies from invading her homeland of Ireland -- only to be told again and again that the battlefield is no place for a woman. But after English conspirators brutally murder her husband, Grace can no longer stand idly by. Leading men into battle on the high seas, Grace O'Malley quickly gains a formidable reputation as the Pirate Queen of Ireland with her prowess as a sailor and skill with a sword. But her newfound notoriety puts the lives of Grace and her entire family in danger and eventually leads to a confrontation with the most powerful woman in England: Queen Elizabeth I.

Disclaimer: I received this book for free from LibraryThing Early Reviewers and Candlewick Press in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

So on the one hand, I appreciate the existence of this book because Grace O’Malley is super cool and her story isn’t widely shared. On the other hand, I’m still not 100% on board with how it was done here.

There’s not a whole lot of definitive fact out there about Grace – and this is my historian showing through.  It’s not like we have her letters or a private journal or anything like that to lean on.  Rather, Grace is one of those figures who has become renown through stories and legends  There are some very basic facts we know – we know of her marriages, we know of her children, and we know of her meeting with Queen Elizabeth.  Everything else, including her appearance, is guesswork.  I’ve personally stumbled across her here and there in Rejected Princesses (every woman in that book needs an historical fiction written about her) and in Under the Black Flag, which is a non-fiction about pirates general.

Tony Lee and Sam Hart have chosen to take moderate middle ground with this graphic novel.  Grace fights for what she believes in and for the country she loves.  She fights for her children.  But this is not the girl power book I wanted.  This isn’t to say Grace is unimpressive – she is impressive – but everything she does is downplayed.  Sure, we get the famous scene where she has a baby in the middle of a battle, but it’s only a couple panels.

I mean, come on!  If that isn’t hella girl power, what is?!

A lot of Grace’s actions take place off screen and the story has become a balance between Brigham’s bloodlust for the O’Malleys, and Grace’s desire to avenge her dead male family members.  Grace actually had a daughter as well, but she is only mentioned once by name, and we never see her again.  The story drags where it should be exciting.  This is a pirate book.  There are few things I personally consider more exciting than pirates.  Especially lady pirates.  And there’s so little like this available.  So I’m holding it to high standard.

All in all I’m really bummed out by Pirate Queen:  The Legend of Grace O’Malley.  There was a lot of potential here for a girl power story between Grace and Elizabeth, but it never played out.  There was opportunity for moxie and excitement.  Instead, it really became a place for a woman to fight because she’s sad her husband and lovers have been murdered.  And honestly, we haven’t even had time to get acquainted with any of them so we care.  There’s no emotional depth in the wording and no depth in the art.  I love Grace O’Malley, but this graphic novel didn’t light any fires for me.

I think that it’s good that this is out there, and it’s a good learning opportunity for middle grade or even some high school readers.  I don’t think it’s particularly memorable, and since we’re missing so much, I was disappointed to see the authors not push a message of feminine strength through as well as they could have.  Still, this sort of thing is a good addition to a school library.  Personally, I just find myself coming out of this disappointed.  It’s not bad… it’s just… not what I wanted, I guess.

The Breakdown
Personal Enjoyment
Overall: three-stars

Pirate Queen:  The Legend of Grace O’Malley will be donated.

First of all, since this book was a bit of a downer for a girl who was expecting excessive squashbuckling, the odds of me wanting to revisit that are pretty low.  I didn’t talk about it so much in the review because I didn’t find it relevant to the review itself… but I also wasn’t the biggest fan of the art style – the colors were really muted and the drawings scratchy.  That’s such a personal thing, however.

I also believe that a book like this would really find a better home in a library – specifically, a school library.  So that’s where I hope it ends up.  🙂  Definitely not one to stay on my personal shelf.


What are some of your favorite pirate books?  I know all about Lady’s Guide and ADSoM – what else have y’all got for me?  I’m ALWAYS looking for pirate books – lemme know in the comments!

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