Friday, April 22, 2011

The Mark of the Golden Dragon

By L.A. Meyer

Release Date: October 3rd, 2011

Three Things I Liked About The Mark of the Golden Dragon:
1. Higgins
2. Ravi 
3. The Black Highwayman

The Mark of the Golden Dragon is the 9th installment in a series I’ve been reading since I was about 11. Unofficially dubbed ‘Bloody Jack’ (after the title of the first book), the series follows Mary “Jacky” Faber, a girl who started her illustrious (and sometimes infamous) life at sea as a woebegone London orphan who, desperate for steady food and a safe place to sleep each night, disguises herself as a boy to take up as a ship’s boy on the HMS Dolphin. Since then, Jacky’s adventures have earned her numerous nicknames (Puss in Boots, La Belle Dame Sans Merci, & etc.), taken her all over the world from the Cape of Good Hope to the northern Atlantic, and required such flexibility of loyalties that they’re blurred almost beyond distinction. Over the course of 9 novels, she’s defeated pirates and dabbled in piracy, won a medal of honor at Trafalgar, attended the prestigious Lawson Peabody School for Girls in Boston (briefly), traversed the Mississippi on a river boat, swum for shipwrecked treasure in the Caribbean, served as a spy on the French lines, met both Napoleon and George III, and been the protégé of a fearsome Chinese pirate queen… just to scratch the service. Nonetheless, though her predicaments and allegiances vary by book (and sometimes even by chapter), Jacky has always endeavored to remain true to two things: Her betrothed, Jaimy, whom she met on her very first voyage and hasn’t spent a consecutive five chapters with ever since, and doing what’s right by her friends. And she’s mostly succeeded. Usually. And she fails with the best intentions.

The Mark of the Golden Dragon sees Jacky safely rescued from a lifetime sentence to the penal colony in Australia and reunited with Jaimy, only to be washed overboard with Ravi in a typhoon off the coast of Southeast Asia. Presumed dead by her crew and loved ones on board her beloved ship, the Lorelei Lee, Jacky and Ravi manage to stay afloat until they wash up onshore. After a few months of navigating the foreign world of the East Indies followed by a fortuitous rescue by trusty ‘ole Higgins (I’m not spoiling anything; readers of the series will know Jacky is ever indefatigable), Jacky hastens back to London, where she infiltrates the London ton with the goal of procuring full pardons for both she and Jaimy (who was wrongfully convicted in the previous novel and sentenced to the same penal colony as Jacky herself), as well as rescuing Jaimy from the life of madness and revenge he has descended into since her presumed death.

Speaking of Jaimy, his vendetta against the two men he holds responsible for Jacky’s putative death has earned him a place on my list of favorite things in The Mark of the Golden Dragon, as well as the nickname “The Black Highwayman” for holding up carriages in search of his quarries, robbing rich occupants Robin Hood style. With his billowing black cloak and mask, and tortured obsession with avenging his (presumed) lost love, he cuts a very dramatic and romantic figure, quite a departure from the relatively unexciting upstanding Lieutenant of the Royal Navy and – pardon my French – whipped fiancé of Bloody Jack, infamous on both sides of the Atlantic, he’s dutifully been for the last few books. It was refreshing to see him break lose.

Jacky has personality and charisma in spades, which enthralls readers and fellow characters alike, and is one of the many reasons I’ve stuck with her for 8 years, in spite of the fact that the recipe for the books grows a bit more stale and contrived with each installment. Yes, the constant cat and mouse game between Jacky and her betrothed, Jaimy, is getting a little tiresome, as are her incorrigible flirtations during their periods of separation. Not to mention her necessary but increasingly implausible resilience and ability to worm her way out of the most dire of circumstances. But on the whole, these are flaws I put up with the way you ignore or tolerate the quirks of an old friend – because you love them, because you’ve known them forever, because their good qualities more than make up for the less so.

Read this book, I say. But first, start at the beginning. (It’s a very good place to start…*)

Conversation Starter:
Which Jacky installment has been your favorite, and what do you think of how the series has developed? How many books do you think she has left in her?

* Forgive me, I watched The Sound of Music on a daily basis as a child.

Books Read This Year: 36
Top 100 Progress: 42/100


  1. AnonymousJuly 07, 2011

    Forgive if I am wrong, but Jacky is nicknamed "La Belle Jeune Fille Sans Merci", not "La Belle Dame Sans Merci".

  2. AnonymousJuly 07, 2011

    I thought this didn't come out until October 2012!?!?

  3. I can't wait . . .
    LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE this series!!!!!!!!
    Can't wait until it comes out!