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Chris Bunch
Orbit paperback £6.99

review by Paul Broome

Things don't begin too well with Chris Bunch's latest standalone fantasy pirate epic, Corsair. Within the first few pages we've already been exposed to two of the biggest clichés in the realm of fantasy fiction: first of all the main character's parents are killed by marauding nasty foreigners leaving him to dream of a distant vengeance, and secondly a character is introduced with more apostrophes in his name than vowels (in this case Knoll N'b'ry). Turning a somewhat weary blind-eye to this, I ploughed on.
   And wasn't I glad that I did. Despite the terrible cover illustration, and the less than encouraging back cover blurb, Corsair is a rip-roaring rollicking good read. The plot is fairly predictable: young orphan makes good, somehow ends up being a pirate on the high seas who preys only upon the marauding nasty foreigners who did away with his parents, while dreaming of his distant unrequited love. But Bunch's no-nonsense style doesn't leave the reader any time to dwell upon these inadequacies, instead we are propelled from chapter to chapter just aching to find out what happens to our 'heroes' next. Not being one who is particularly educated when it comes to sailing, piracy or munitions, the action scenes took a little while to get into, but once you work out which cannon is which (i.e. the big ones, small ones and the demi-ones) and realise that you can load more into them than just cannonballs (a new one on me - grapeshot in cannons?) then it starts to make sense. There's a good group of central characters, who are more than adequately sketched-out, and the plot devices are neat and unobtrusive.
   I haven't read any of the author's other works, and after reading this one I wasn't left with an overwhelming desire to discover them now. But that said, despite a slightly disappointing (and highly obvious) ending, if you're looking for a light, almost old-fashioned amiable romp around the rigging, or if hoisting the whatever-sail gets your blood pumping, then Corsair - with it's swashbuckling, hull-scraping, bombard-blasting, and swords 'n' sorcery - will provide you with more than enough entertainment for a day or two. Oh, a small aside to Mr Bunch: I think naming the hero Gareth may have been a mistake... I don't think I've ever met a heroic Gareth in my life. Maybe Gar, or just G'r would have been better.
Corsair by Chris Bunch
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