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In the mid-eighteenth century young Jeremy is signed up aboard the Firefly as a loblolly boy – a gruesome job aiding the ship’s doctor. However, his seafaring adventures turn even more disturbing when, after the Firefly is attacked by pirates, he finds himself set adrift with the remnants of the crew and the mysterious figure, Mr Wicker. To escape the murderous intentions of this unscrupulous band Jeremy, renamed Loblolly Boy, is transformed, made invisible by the curious talents of this latter character.
But is Mr Wicker acting in Loblolly Boy’s interests or his own? Caught by the seemingly eternal ties that now bind him to his new master, Loblolly Boy must engage in a dangerous game to discover who Mr Wicker really is and what drives this strange, enigmatic individual. With equal urgency, however, Loblolly Boy must also find a way to cross over from his liminal existence – unseen, unheard – back to his human self.
As Norcliffe himself confirms, The Pirates and the Nightmaker affords a backstory to the author’s Loblolly Boy concept – an intriguing characterisation first introduced in The Loblolly Boy. A finalist in this year’s The New Zealand Book Awards for Children and Young Adults, The Pirates and the Nightmaker’s engaging blend of fact and fiction produces an absorbing quest that advances with serpent-like shifts. Enigmas, commotions and betrayals layer complexity and captivating drama as a tousled cast of characters jostle for supremacy on land and the high seas.
This title is a perplexing mystery adventure in which, with narrative precision, James Norcliffe evokes detailed imagery of the iconic battle between “light and darkness” in the pursuit of power. I highly recommend this book and will be watching its award’s journey with keen interest.
Reviewed by Kay Hall
The Pirates and the Nightmaker
by James Norcliffe
Published by Longacre