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This title continues the story begun in Pirate Curse (S & S, 2006), set in a Caribbean fantasy world. Fourteen-year-old Jolly and Munk, the last two remaining pirate polliwogs, have the magical ability to walk on water. They may be the only ones able to save the floating coral city of Aelenium from the Maelstrom, but to do so, they will need to dive six miles down into the ocean to close the source of the ancient malevolent force and thereby prevent the opening of a gate to another world, the Mare Tenebrosum. This never happens in the course of the book (the ending implies a third volume), as many different and confusing subplots and a host of difficult-to-keep-straight characters are introduced. One involves Soledad, the daughter of the murdered pirate emperor, who wants her rightful inheritance and fights a grueling battle with grappling irons to get it. The book's title would lead readers to think that this is the primary plot, but that is not clear. What is clear is that this book does not stand alone; reading the first volume is imperative. Meyer does a nice job of creatively portraying the environment and the magical creatures that inhabit it. There is even some humor and the hint of a romance for Jolly. Pirate Emperor will appeal to those who have read the first volume or who like their action fast paced and swashbuckling.
—Connie Tyrrell BurnsCopyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
The scream of the Acherus awakened her. Jolly started up, her head throbbing so badly that she felt as though she'd banged it hard on something. She was lying on a scratchy raffia mat, the twisted roll of a woolen blanket beside her. A narrow stripe of daylight was falling through the cave's crudely carved window, but it couldn't drive away the shadows around the rumpled sleeping place. She must have tipped over the water jug in the night, and its contents had evaporated into the oppressive heat. Even the rock walls surrounding her were sweating in the humid weather.
The scream of the Acherus.
She'd heard it, most certainly.
But now there was stillness -- no, not stillness, only the distant murmuring of the Caribbean, the whispering of the wind, and the rushing of the surf. And...yes, voices. Very far away.
Where was she? What was she doing here?
Remembering took a moment. But then the images flowed back into her consciousness, most of them no less painful than the throbbing behind her eyes.
They'd gone overboard. In the middle of a raging sea battle, between murderous salvos of cannon and powder smoke, she and Griffin had landed in the water. Jolly recalled how she'd looked for Griffin in the boiling sea, how she'd draggedhim onto the rocky shore of an island with the last of her strength. And when the air cleared, their ship was gone.
Their companions had gone with the Carfax: Munk, Captain Walker, the pit bull man Buenaventure, the pirate princess Soledad, and the Ghost Trader had vanished into the air with the smoke of the shots.
"Jolly! You're awake!"
Griffin came through the doorway in a crouch. The pirate boy just fit through the narrow opening. Like all the shelters on the island, this one was hardly bigger than a narrow cabin. But after the two of them had been given food and water, the dark rock shelter had seemed like a palace to them.
"I...I heard something," Jolly said hoarsely, as Griffin squatted down beside her. "The Acherus, I think."
For a fraction of a second, the boy's face showed concern. But then he grinned and shook his head so vigorously that the blond braids whirling around his head looked like garlands.
"You dreamed it," he said gently. "There's nothing here on the island. At least no Acherus or something else that the Maelstrom could bring down on us."
Most probably he was right. Jolly had been dreaming a lot since this whole business had begun.
Again and again she saw images of endless armies of kobalins lurking under the waves as far as the eye could see. She felt the dead fish on her skin as they rained from the heavens and smelled the foul breath of the Acherus. And yet, the evil that had called up these terrible happenings was no more comprehensible because of them. The Maelstrom and the Mare Tenebrosum stayed hidden behind their own creatures -- inconceivable, incomprehensible, and thus even more terrifying.
"Agostini said I should call you," said Griffin. "He wants to take us out onto the bridge. You'll come, won't you?"
She nodded vigorously but grimaced at once when the headache made its presence known again. Nevertheless, any distraction was all right with her. She stood up, a little shakily, washed perfunctorily at the spring in the rock cleft, and then hurried outside with Griffin.
The bridge builders' camp was situated in a multitude of tiny caves that ran like air bubbles through the cooled lava on this side of the island. Jolly and Griffin had landed on the north end of the island, where the cliffs of the mountain cones were filled with old, dried-out tree stumps and the ground was colored yellow-brown. But here, in the south, a gray layer of hardened lava several miles wide covered much of the former volcano. It must have belched out of the crater thousands of years ago and gradually cooled on its way to the water. A branching maze of cracks and crevices, cut into the rock by time and weather, protected the inhabitants of this wasteland from the heat and from the much-feared tropical storms.
It had been four days since the two castaways, hungry and thirsty, had stumbled into the camp of Agostini, the bridge builder, and his workmen. The long hours since then had been filled with waiting and doing nothing. Jolly was almost relieved when no trace of the Carfax appeared on the horizon on the second and third days. It looked more and more as if their friends had continued on to the city of Aelenium without them. Let them, Jolly thought fiercely. Even if she was a polliwog, she most certainly was not keen to confront the Maelstrom. She intended to go aboard the next supply ship and return to her old life as a pirate at last.
"There you are!" cried Agostini, when they left the labyrinth of rock fissures and reached the cliffs.
The master bridge builder came striding toward them, gesticulating fussily with his long arms, giving orders to the workers as he passed, taking a roll of papers handed to him, giving his opinion, handing papers back, spitting chewing tobacco, biting into a banana, and pushing back his broad-brimmed hat -- all without slowing down.
Agostini was always doing at least three things at once. And not because he had no time: It was probably part of his nature always to be doing something, to be talking, moving, drawing up new plans, or reworking old ones. The man virtually seethed, as if a swarm of ants had taken on human form.
Today he was going to take Jolly and Griffin with him onto the unfinished bridge for the first time.
He turned on his heel when he reached the two of them and strode back beside them to the edge of the cliff, across a stretch of ash-gray porous rock covered with tents, workshops, and dark-skinned men. Dozens of islanders were working for him.
Agostini had long, waving hair and wore an outfit that was part torn Spanish uniform, part English captain's attire, and part French farmer's garb, all lumped together. The main thing was, it fulfilled its purpose. His tousled gray hair billowed under his broad-brimmed hat and hardly differed from the faded, drooping feathers stuck under its red hatband.
A crowd of chattering workmen parted as Agostini reached the building site with Jolly and Griffin.
The master builder stopped and, for the first time, stood still for a moment. He breathed deeply. Jolly followed his gaze to the spectacular wooden construction stretching from the edge of the lava rocks into the distance.
When she and Griffin had seen the bridge the first time, they'd scarcely believed their eyes. It spanned an arm of the sea to the next island. It wasn't finished yet, but the sight of the gigantic construction was already enough to take one's breath away.
Agostini's bridge was, in fact, astonishing: two hundred feet long, ten feet wide; curved high over the water like a sickle, but without a single column to support it; completely without ornament, designed only for functionality, and yet, of an elegance that turned the bridge itself into an ornament.
It consisted of a filigreed latticework of planks and timbers that would have to be covered in the next few weeks. Until then, the workers balanced like rope dancers on the wooden crossbeams, only one step removed from the abyss. The bridge ended on cliffs high over the water on both sides. The highest point of its arch was a good twenty fathoms from the surface of the sea.
Clearly the bridge was a delusion of grandeur. What brought a man to erect such a construction in the middle of nowhere? Who was going to use it when it was finished? Why would anyone go to such an expense to create a link between two deserted islands that lay far outside all the trade routes, far from any civilization? Agostini had given them no answers to all these questions.
Jolly suspected that he was simply crazy. However, the master builder had taken her and Griffin in and provided them with every necessity. Until they left the island, they were dependent on his help, as little as it pleased her to be stuck here.
The wind hissed at them as they left the firm ground and walked out onto the timbers of the bridge.
"It was finished this morning," Agostini declared. "The workers closed the last gaps."
Griffin took a slightly worried look at the holes between the planks. Like Jolly, he'd grown up on pirate ships. He moved over the yards of a ship with blind security. But this bridge, for reasons that weren't entirely clear to him, was something else.
They had to take care where they set their feet on the narrow crossbeams -- especially Jolly. As a polliwog, she could walk on the water, but to fall and land on the surface of the sea would be fatal -- the waves were as hard as stone for her, she'd break all her bones. Even for Griffin, to whom the water was only water, a fall from this height might have serious consequences.
They went along the edge of the bridge, holding on to the railing firmly with one hand. A pair of islanders sprinted nimbly past them -- no wonder; most of them had been working on the structure for more than a year.
It took a long time to reach the highest point of the bridge. Jolly was so deeply lost in thought that she hadn't noticed at all that the workers were gradually left behind. Now, when she looked up, she saw that they were alone with Agostini.
Griffin asked a few questions for politeness, but Jolly hardly heard him. It was only when he wanted to know how all that wood could stay in the air without any columns at all and Agostini replied, "By magic," that she became alert.
Magic? But only polliwogs understood the art of mussel magic! Oh, well, not all the polliwogs. Of the two who were left alive, clearly only Munk had this talent. Jolly lacked the patience and also the ability -- even if the Ghost Trader maintained otherwise. Munk, however, was far away; probably he'd already arrived in Aelenium with the others.
But what about Agostini? What did he know about magic?
She was about to pry it out of him when the master builder stopped. They were now in the middle of the bridge. Under them gaped a good one hundred and twenty feet of emptiness.
Agostini placed both hands on the railing, closed his eyes, and breathed deeply. His long hair fluttered in the wind like ashes on a breeze.
Griffin and Jolly exchanged a look.
In the distance came the sound of howling. Jolly turned around in fright, but it was only the wind, driving through the narrow gaps between the rock islands. The rushing of the boiling sea was thrown back whispering from the stone walls, the sound of the echo reaching even way up here.
Jolly made a new attempt to get some answers. "Really, what's the purpose of a bridge like this, out here at the end of the world?"
The master builder smiled, looking not at Jolly but over the water to the other islands. The panorama resembled layers of gray and brown shades laid on a blue canvas.
"The purpose of all bridges," he said mysteriously. "It goes from one place to the other." This was the first time he'd spoken so quietly and softly. Jolly had to strain to understand him.
Griffin shifted from foot to foot. His uneasy expression made Jolly fall silent. What did she care? Probably the best thing would be for them to enjoy the breathtaking view for a moment and then return to land.
"That other island over there" -- Jolly pointed to the end of the bridge and the forested knob that rose behind it -- "why didn't you set up your camp there? It looks much more comfortable, with all the trees."
Something set off an alarm in the back of her mind, something in her own words, a hidden thought, whose meaning only became clear to her an instant later.
The trees...all the trees. Of course: It looked as though not one single tree had been felled over there. They'd all been cut down on the volcanic island, but not...
Not over there!
But there could not possibly have been enough trees on the island to create this gigantic bridge. When she thought about it carefully, there could not have been enough trees on the entire island group.
"Jolly?" Griffin had noticed that she was worried about something. "What's wrong?"
She didn't answer but looked silently down at the wood under her feet. It didn't seem unusual. She crouched down and touched it with her fingertips. It felt smooth, although the surface wasn't sanded, and it was fibrous, almost like reeds or bamboo.
"This isn't ordinary wood, is it?" She lifted her head. That same enigmatic smile was still playing around Agostini's lips.
"No," he whispered.
Griffin looked from one to the other, then grabbed Jolly by the arm. "Let's go back."
Jolly stared at the master builder. "Where does this bridge go?"
Griffin's eyes widened. "Where?" he repeated in amazement.
"He knows what I mean."
Agostini nodded. "Not to that island over there, anyway."
"But -- ," Griffin was beginning when Jolly interrupted him: "You didn't think up this bridge on your own, did you? Someone gave you a commission. And a large portion of the wood for it."
Again the master builder nodded. His right hand began to play absently with the brim of his hat. "You came too early," he said. "But now everything will fall into place, little polliwog."
She hadn't told him anything about her abilities.
"Jolly, let's go." Griffin had had enough of the two of them speaking about something he didn't understand. "I'm going alone, if you don't -- "
This time it wasn't Jolly who interrupted him but a commotion on the lava cliff. His head whipped around. And Jolly's did the same.
The islanders were running and leaping toward the rocks, where dozens of men had clumped together. Slowly they formed a circle around something that was not discernible at that distance.
"What's going on there?" Jolly asked.
Some of the workers cried out, and in several places the crowd broke apart. Many turned their faces toward heaven, as if they expected to see something out of the ordinary there. But the blue Caribbean sky was as empty and infinite as it was every day. Other islanders fell on their knees and spread out their arms in supplication.
Something smacked at Jolly's feet.
"Not again," she muttered between her teeth.
Dead fish plunged down out of nowhere, slapped onto the wooden struts, slid off, and disappeared into the depths. Silvery scaled bodies, octopuses, round spiny fish, crabs with red claws, and swollen bodies without eyes or limbs -- they were all raining down now out of a cloudless sky, flowing like a macabre shower of corpses over the bridge, the cliffs, and the surrounding sea.
"Let's get out of here!" bellowed Griffin, about to run.
"Little polliwog," whispered Agostini. And he repeated, still more softly, "From one place to another..."
A shimmering body brushed past his shoulder, but the master builder didn't move.
Jolly and Griffin began to run back to land, but after a few steps, they both stopped.
Griffin breathed in sharply. "My god."
Jolly made not a sound. She watched the crowd of men break apart and flee in all directions, a handful even back onto the bridge. It was barely possible to see through the hail of fish bodies, but even that little was enough to explain the workers' panic. Small, dark shadows were appearing among them, figures that uttered gabbling cries as they landed blows with arms that were much too long.
Jolly tore her eyes from the sight, bent over the bridge railing, and looked down at the water. The sea was churning with so many thousands of fish that the waves appeared to boil. And yet it wasn't only the fish corpses that set the sea in motion: Something was also pushing up through the water from underneath, dark forms that floated on the waves like seaweed. Hundreds of them.
"Kobalins!" Griffin started back from the railing as if one of the frightful creatures had popped up right in front of his nose.
Jolly's voice was so hoarse that she could hardly be understood between her gasps. "And something else, too."
Griffin avoided a squid body and was hit on the back of the head by another dead creature instead. He made a face. "Something else?"
She nodded. She'd experienced a fish rain like this twice before. The sign was clear: A creature of the Maelstrom must be nearby. A monster like the Acherus, who had killed Munk's parents.
"But why are the kobalins attacking the workers?" Griffin stared over at the cliffs, where more and more dark forms were now falling on the men, a black, glittering wave of wet bodies, with overlong, much too thin limbs and snapping jaws. "Kobalins don't go on land!" He sounded terribly helpless. "Never!"
"They are now, though." Jolly pushed herself away from the railing and cast an anxious look through the latticework of the bridge down at the water. Between the crests of the waves it was swarming with kobalin heads. "Their leader is driving them onto shore. He must be able to frighten them more than the land and the air do."
Agostini was now on the railing, both arms raised, his head thrown back. "Go, little polliwog...," he whispered. "You are expected." Jolly hadn't seen him climb onto the railing, and she didn't understand how he could stay up there without holding on to anything. But his words froze the blood in her veins. What the devil did he mean?
A deep humming came from Agostini's throat. A gust of wind blew the hat off his head and his gray hair fluttered around his skull like tatters of smoke.
Griffin grabbed Jolly by the arm. "The kobalins are following the workers onto the bridge! Come on, we have to get out of here!" He gestured toward the opposite end of the bridge, where the forested hill of the second island was visible behind the pelting fish bodies.
"No, not that!" Jolly held him back. "Wait!"
Griffin looked back over his shoulder at the volcanic island. Scrabbling, clinging, and leaping kobalins now crowded onto the latticework of the bridge, reaching the fleeing workers and flinging them over the railings into the water below. Once they struck the water, they sank inexorably under the fish cadavers and did not appear again.
"They've seen us!"
"Of course," she said. "After all, they're here because of us." It was a highly probable assumption, but even as Jolly said it, she doubted it again.
"We can't go over there," she cried, trying to raise her voice over the thumping of the dead fish and avoid them at the same time.
"What exactly did Agostini say before?"
Griffin stared at her desperately, then at the master builder, who was still standing in his posture of submissive worship on the railing. He looked less and less human, his proportions were becoming distorted, as if his reaching arms were growing toward the heavens.
"What did he answer when I asked him where the bridge led?"
"Not to the other island."
"Not to the island," repeated Jolly, and tried to make herself think. Be calm! Try hard!
Griffin looked at her, eyes wide. "But then where else would it...? I mean, if not to the island, then..." He broke off, shaking his head.
"It's a gate. Or a passageway. Even a...a bridge," she said helplessly, because nothing better came to her. "Agostini actually did build a bridge, but it doesn't lead to the island over there, even if it looks like it. In reality, over there is something different. Perhaps another world."
"The Mare Tenebrosum?"
"It might be possible, mightn't it?"
Griffin's face hardened, his look became grim. "They're coming. We have to get out of here!"
Still Jolly didn't move. She took one step toward Agostini, who kept on humming and whispering into the cadaver rain and not looking at her at all.
The kobalins were coming closer. They weren't as agile as they were in the water, and the height seemed to intimidate them even more than the unaccustomed surface under their feet or the unfamiliar element. And yet their snapping, hissing, squealing mass was threatening enough to prove Griffin right. He and Jolly had to get away.
Jolly ran, but she felt as if someone else were running for her, carrying her forward and making her insensitive to her terror.
Only for a few steps. Then she stopped again. Griffin stumbled and almost slid off, but he caught himself at the last moment with her help.
"There ahead," she said tonelessly.
They had come closer to the other island. And yet it appeared more indistinct than before. Its shape was fuzzy around the edges, like a form of dark smoke. At the same time the air over it was darkened, not by clouds, but as if the light was sucked out of the blue Caribbean sky.
"What is that?" Griffin asked.
The kobalins let out a concert of high, lashing shrieks as they approached from behind. They were now only forty yards away.
"Keep going!" yelled Griffin as he looked over his shoulder.
"We can't -- "
"You want to let them tear you apart?" He grabbed her by the arm and pulled her on. "It'll be enough if they throw you off the bridge like the others. The impact will break your neck -- or the kobalins in the water will do it."
The darkness had spread over the sky. Not merely over them, it had also grown darker beside and in front of them. The island's hump grew higher and wider and flowed in all directions.
A screech alarmed them and made them both whirl around.
Something sprang toward them with arms outstretched, teeth bared, webbed fingers spread and curled into claws.
"Look out!" Jolly cried.
Griffin ducked. At the same time he drew his dagger from his belt. The blade flashed in the last light of the blue sky that glowed over the bridge behind them like the light at the end of a tunnel. The kobalin avoided Griffin's knife blow, swung his arms wildly, and came to stand astride two wooden crosspieces. His hideous head, with its too many teeth, swung menacingly from right to left, over and over, while behind him the tide of his fellows came nearer.
Jolly drew her own knife from her boot, quickly turned it in her hand, seized it by the point, and in a flowing movement flung it at the creature, just as Captain Bannon had taught her. The blade struck the monster's chest with a dull fummp. A last, high scream, then the kobalin lost his balance and plunged between the timbers into the deep.
Jolly whirled around and gratefully took Griffin's outstretched hand. While they rushed forward, the thought flashed through her mind that she was now unarmed.
The kobalins held back, as if the remaining light held them fast.
The island at the end of the bridge was an island no longer but a surging heart of darkness that turned and stretched, pulsing, as if it were alive. The bridge seemed to become longer. They really ought to have reached the other side by this time. But the structure led ever farther, now curving downward, which made it harder to find enough footholds to run on the struts and not be swept off their feet by their own momentum.
"They're...they're staying back!" Griffin's voice almost broke.
I don't know if that's a good sign, Jolly thought, but she didn't say anything. Her throat felt raw, and there was a horrible taste in her mouth, somewhere between chewed peppercorns and spoiled meat.
Suddenly the view cleared and the darkness turned into a deep, starless night, which extended over a stormy sea like a dome.
A sea that had not been there. Without islands, without a trace of land. A sea of black, oily water. The crests of the waves were crowned by dark foam, which appeared to consist of millions and millions of tiny creatures; little crabs, perhaps, or water insects.
There was no more light behind them. The part of the bridge over which they'd come led straight into the endless night of this place and lost itself in the darkness. The kobalins had vanished; they could not follow them here. Or did they not dare to?
The end of the bridge ahead of them led in a shallow arc down into the water. The crests of the waves broke over the latticework, swirled away over them, and left behind dark, oily traces.
Mighty bodies moved under the surface, extremely elongated bodies as wide as Spanish warships. Sometimes something slapped into the waves, after an almost unseen leap in the darkness.
A primal ocean, as it might have been in the beginning of the world, and yet different, stranger, more frightening. A gray shimmer lay over the water. Hazily it outlined the tossing wave crests and house-high waves.
Jolly and Griffin stopped, hand in hand, and stared unmoving out into that sea of timeless blackness and infinite deepness.
Gazed out onto the Mare Tenebrosum.
English language translation copyright © 2007 by Elizabeth D. Crawford
Die Muschelmagier: text © 2003 by Kai Meyer
Excerpted from Pirate Emperor by Kai Meyer Copyright © 2008 by Kai Meyer. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Bridge of Fire
The Sea Star City
Visit by Night
The Truth About Spiders
The Ghost in the Barrel
Alone at Sea
The Man in the Whale
At the Council of the Captains
The Cannibal King
The Water Spinners
The Fleet of the Enemy
Posted May 7, 2012
Posted September 3, 2012
Posted August 14, 2012
Posted February 19, 2013
Do NOT buy this freaking book. It is the stupidest thing EVER. When u open it, it is blank. I want my money back and nobaddy should waste their money on it. DO NOT BUY!!!!!Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted September 22, 2009
As always, Meyer is an incredibly imaginative storyteller, and the way he intricately weaves his plot structure throughout the story keeps the reader constantly guessing what's going to happen next. Personally, I have been enjoying this trilogy more than the Dark Reflections Trilogy because there are a lot more twists and the characters seem to have a wider arc and a greater range of experiences. Above all, though, what makes this book, and the others so far in the series, so fun is the unique world that Meyer has created and thrust into the middle of the pirate myth lore, which people have a tendency to love. I recommend this book to all readers 10+.
-Lindsey Miller, www.lindseyslibrary.com
Posted November 14, 2008
Jolly and Griffin set off to find out where the endless-appearing bridge goes, but they find themselves trapped when the bridge bursts into flame and strange creatures called kobalins attack before they can escape. Then the Ghost Trader appears as if by magic and sweeps them off to the city of Aelinium in this Caribbean fantasy world. <BR/><BR/>Their world is threatened, and they will have to dive deep into the water to keep an ancient source from opening a gate into the world of Mare Tenebrosum, a deep, black, and lightless place, but Jolly wants to rescue Captain Bannon first. He is the only father she has ever known and he is in danger. She steals a ghost ship and sets off on that mission. Griffin follows, but strange otherworldly creatures, along with pirates and a host of menacing monsters, get in their way and send the plot in other directions. <BR/><BR/>Swords, ships, ghosts, and magic combine to make fast action and unexpected twists. <BR/><BR/>While this story would have been easier to understand if I had read the first book in THE WAVE WALKERS series, Kai Meyer is a master at creating compelling characters and a lively plot that will keep you reading. It appears that there will be a third volume in the series, and I can't wait for more adventures with these characters.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted February 9, 2008
this book is excellent! i didnt want to put it down! in the sequal to The Pirate Curse Jolly and her friends find themselves on the beautiful island of Aelenium but things are very different between her and Munk.Munks skills with mussels has grown and he has learned many magic tricks. But Munk is different from the simple farm boy he once was. When Jolly and Griffin arive in Aelenium she and Giffin had become closer and now Munk seems jealous of there friendship. But as Jolly goes through her training she discovers a book with the picture of the spider she had been looking for and she sets out to find Captian Bannon. But Griffin follows her and is trapped in a whale! All of this and more in Kai Meyer's book: The Pirate Emperor. If you loved the last book you'll love this one too. So Read Pirate Emperor... If You Dare!Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted January 29, 2007
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Posted November 21, 2010
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