I adore books that take me out into the open waters. I love pirates, sea dragons, mermaids and epic ship battle. I love treasure hunts and hidden islands -— stories that let me feel the wind in my hair and survey a vast, uncharted sea.
It is not just the open water that gets me excited, but the strong women who command them. Protagonists like Lysandra from the Throne of Glass series by Sarah J. Maas, who is capable of transforming into a monstrous sea dragon and wreaking havoc upon unsuspecting battleships. There is something about a leading lady and a piratey adventure that gets me super excited. But then again, I am a huge fan of Pirates of the Caribbean (the first three movies at least, the others don’t exist in my opinion).
The books below are not solely set at sea or focused around living your best pirate life, but they do include some of the funnest and most epic sea adventures I have read to date.
Oh, and I should warn you… SPOILERS ahead. Turn back now and find a quiet place to read, if you don’t want any plot points ruined.
I am a huge fan of fantasy books. I find it very difficult to read contemporary as they, more often than not, put me in a book slump. When I found out that The Lady’s Guide to Petticoats and Piracy was going to be our Book of the Month, I was quietly biting nails. But this book took me by surprise. It dazzled me with beautiful prose, it caught me off guard with its loveable characters, all the while swirling me around in a rich, vibrant world full of pirates and sea dragons. That is right, sea dragons!
It isn’t just the magical elements that made me fall in love with this book, but the relatable characters. Felicity is such a refreshing protagonist (although, with a tendency to rant all too often). She knows what she wants, and she is not prepared to let anyone tell her that she cannot achieve her goals. What I love most about Felicity is her character growth. She is so strong-minded, and opinionated that she cannot see past her own nose. She views petticoats, high heels and make-up as a form of weaknesses. And because of this, she cannot bring herself to accept Johanna as an equal. Johanna is everything that Felicity has convinced herself is counterproductive to achieve her life long dream. So, it is fair to say I love the interactions between these two characters, and the conflict that ensues. That moment when Johanna finally gives Felicity a healthy dose of reality… priceless!
Windwitch has a great dynamic between its leading ladies. Stafi is hot-headed and ready to start a fight, where as Iseult is clam and calculated. With these two, there is never a dull moment. Stafi and Iseult go head to head with empresses, princes and witches alike, all the while on a pirate-like-adventure. Susan Dennard keeps the plot fast-paced and action heavy. Which is great if you are like me and have been stuck in a book slump. Beware, you may fall in love with a certain steamy captain. I certainly did. And if that isn’t enough, add warring kingdoms, deadly curses, and an epic battle with sea foxes! This book has everything you will need to cure that inevitable book hangover awaiting you after reading, The Lady’s Guide to Petticoats and Piracy.
The Girl of Fire and Thorns series is one of my most beloved YA books, EVER! Why? Because it is breathtaking. The main character, Elisa, is my favourite female protagonist. At the beginning of the first book, Elisa is married of as a political pawn to a far away kingdom. Book to book, you really get to see her grow as a character, as she gains confidence and strength in her own abilities. She is such a dynamic character, who is constantly self reflecting, learning from her mistakes and actively trying to improve on them. She isn’t strong because she is a master warrior with a hot temper; she is strong because she is intelligent and thoughtful. And that is such a welcome and refreshing change from your typical YA characters. So if you are after magic, betrayal, combat and one hell of a sailing scene, then this is the book for you.
I love anything written by Leigh Bardugo, all her characters are absolutely amazing. Every book she writes in the Grisha worlds is an action packed adventure. The Grisha books are such a fantastic series. Although, I know this might be a bit of a controversial choice as I am aware there is a lot of hate for these books. But if you are like me and you love fantasy books that involve mythical creatures, magic and one hell of a villain then you will throughly enjoy this series. And what is not to love, when Alina’s journey takes her to the Bone Road, a deadly iceberg filled passage that is home to an ice dragon.
Okay, this choice is a kind of cheating, because it isn’t technically a Young Adult book. Instead, it is an incredibly well-written and beautiful illustrated graphic novel. I am personally guilty of not reading many graphic novels. Honestly, I considered them to be a little childish. I was so wrong! The story contained within these pages is one of my favourites to date – graphic novel or not.
In the second volume, our protagonist Maika Halfwolf enters the pirate city of Tyria. Where she then ventures out onto the open sea in search of the Isle of Bones. Here, she is not confronted by a sea dragon, as seen in so many other books, but sirens, sea ghouls and all sorts of ghastly creatures.
Maika is such a unique character. She can be brutal and cruel, but given her upbringing, I forgive her. I adore the conflict she has with the creature living inside her, and the grotesque things it makes her do. Mostly, I love that Maika isn’t wholly fearless, she’s flawed down to her very bones, but in spite of all her short-comings she is still a strong and determined woman.