Book Reviews

Pirates of Arvodia

Her throne stolen. Her life and kingdom in peril. Everything she had ever known and loved... gone overnight. Princess Hadriana’s happy coronation day turns into a paranoid nightmare when an evil sorcerer brutally usurps her throne. Her only way out is to gain refuge with a band of misfit pirates as they set sail on a distant adventure, seeking a legendary treasure. On the long journey that awaits her, the young princess learns more about who she is and where she came from, forges unbreakable friendships, and finds her first lover. But will she succeed in this daring quest? Will she lose her throne forever… or worse yet, be forced to marry the very tyrant that took it all from her?

As widely recognised a beginning as “once upon a time” is, it is seldom that I come across a book that actually begins with those four words. Pirates of Arvodia, by David Doci, is a rarity in using that opening fragment. It is no short story for children; it’s a full-length novel. It’s not a story passed down verbally, but written words across many pages (or screens if you read on an eReader like me). However, “once upon a time” is a telling statement for this book, which tells a swashbuckling adventure that would be at home as a short story for children, told to them verbally as they crawl into bed for the night.

 “Once upon a time” is perfectly suited to Pirates of Avordia. It chronicles the adventures of Princess Hadriana, who, after losing her throne to the evil sorcerer, Zodrek, falls in with Judah and his band of pirates (naturally, these pirates are friendly). Pirates of Avordia is not a tale of darkness and woe; it is instead a lighthearted romp filled with adventure. Its story isn’t particularly complex or original: Zodrek has usurped the throne that should belong to Princess Hadriana upon her coronation and his rule would forever imperil the kingdom of Arvodia, so she must, with the help of unlikely allies, pirates, band together to stop Zodrek. It’s a light fantasy tale, and one well-suited to a demographic of middle graders who enjoy unthreatening tales of good versus evil and will likely appreciate the familiarity.

Doci’s mission statement is to tell stories that provide strong Christian messaging. I didn’t find much that I would describe as “Christian” as much as I would call it “positive,” ensuring that it’s suitable for all children, irrespective of their parents’ beliefs. If you’re considering this book for a younger reader, you’ll find that Pirates of Arvodia is a largely clean story for them. There is action but very little violence, love without sexual subtext, no swearing (however, people’s mileage on words like “bastard” will vary), and only a fragment of antisocial behaviour. The result is a novel that is about as G-rated as you can find outside of picture and chapter books. It takes place in a fantasy world where villains wield magic, and so does the occasional hero. Arvodia is the type of land where Errol Flynn would don Robin Hood’s tights, or Peter Pan would take Wendy to Disney’s Neverland; somewhere where children will enjoy the threat but never feel threatened.

While it comes in at 334 pages in paperback (or 336 pages on Kindle), I found Pirates of Avordia to read in far less time than most books of its length, which can be attributed to it being written with a younger age group in mind. The language used within the book is easy to parse for readers of all ages, and while the number of pages may make some kids baulk (and you can always hide the size by passing it to them on Kindle), they will be able to make their way through the story reasonably quickly without being challenged.

While the lack of challenge younger readers will find in Pirates of Arvodia ensures children of most ages will be able to read it easily, it also results in prose that feels awkward and clunky. The prose is peppered with simple, repeated adjectives that do little to colour the book’s world. The reading experience would be smoother if many of these were simply removed, and the text would be more lively if the bulk of those left were replaced with more inventive words or phrases. At points, the prose doesn’t name places, and instead refers to them by their use (for example, “the place where the gunpowder barrels were stored,” instead of naming the magazine or powder store). While children likely wouldn’t know this, it’s a missed opportunity for them to learn something new, and reads like the author hasn’t undertaken the necessary research.

The character’s voices are unique to one another, and it is reasonably easy to tell who is speaking by their cadence. However, the dialogue patterns of these characters are exactly what one would expect from the characters. The princess sounds like a princess, the pirates sound like pirates, and the villainous sorcerer sounds like a villainous sorcerer. Younger readers will appreciate the familiar, but further variety from the expected would have elevated this. The dialogue between characters doesn’t flow particularly naturally, and often feels like it’s being used to provide exposition.

I can’t help but feel that additional rounds of editing would have helped with the prose and dialogue, and worked to smooth out some of its rougher edges. It would have also helped remedy the various spelling and grammar mistakes in the book. There aren’t a huge number of these errors in the writing, but there are enough to stand out for the adult reader. The target audience likely won’t notice most of these, but any parents reading Pirates of Arvodia will.

Pirates of Arvodia tells a lighthearted story that children will surely enjoy. It provides an escapist tale about pirates, royalty and sorcery with very little material that most parents would find objectionable. While I have concerns about its prose and dialogue, younger readers are unlikely to share these misgivings, but these, coupled with various spelling and grammar issues, will limit the value that older readers can take from it.

Favourite Passage

“Arrr… you stinky traitors!” he shouted with a terrifyingly aggressive voice while shooting a few bullets in the direction of the ship. “May the curse fall upon all of you!”

Pirates of Arvodia, Chapter V: “Captured”

Pirates of Arvodia was provided by the author for the purpose of an honest review.

Pirates of Arvodia is available in paperback and Kindle, exclusive to Amazon.

You can follow David Doci online, via:

Note: I do not post scores on reviews on this website, but do post them on my Amazon and Goodreads reviews:

Interested in purchasing Pirates of Arvodia?

Please find a link below; please note I do not collect any proceeds from the sale.

Pirates of Arvodia

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