Welcome to Read this Book, a newsletter where I recommend one book that needs to jump onto your TBR pile! This week, I’m recommending a historical fiction novel about one of the most notorious pirates in all of history.
What do S.A. Cosby, Khaled Hosseini, Sarah Bakewell, and Yahdon Israel have in common? They’ve been guests on Book Riot’s newest podcast, First Edition where BookRiot.com co-founder Jeff O’Neal explores the wide bookish world. Subscribe to hear them and stay to hear Book Riot’s editors pick the “it” book of the month.
Deep as the Sky, Red as the Sea by Rita Chang-Eppig
Chang-Eppig has created a fascinating historical fiction novel that grips you from the first few pages. The story begins when Shek Yeung finds herself in a tenuous position. Her husband has just been killed by the Portuguese. But he named his adopted son his heir and successor, not one of Shek Yeung’s two sons. To ensure her position as co-leader of the fleet, she marries the adopted son and promises to provide him with an heir.
Shek Yeung is one of the most notorious pirates in all of history. She led an alliance across the South China Seas. She was brutal and vengeful, a pirate queen in a time that saw Europeans starting to make contact with the East. Chang-Eppig’s novel showcases the rise of Shek Yeung from her humble beginnings. Her father’s fishing boat was attacked by pirates, who then sold her into prostitution. But when a powerful leader of a fleet of pirates takes a liking to her, she agrees to become his wife.
Rising to become co-leader of the fleet, she sets up new rules. The men are not to rape the women they capture, and she beheads the ones that do. She provides a safe haven for a girl she makes her personal assistant, a woman who keeps track of the fleet’s finances. But how does she justify herself when there are hundreds of other women that she has enslaved or killed?
I had heard of Shek Yeung, who has made a lot of “notable women throughout history” lists for her villainous career as one of the greatest pirates of all time. But I had never thought through her life and how she might have ended up turning to piracy. Chang-Eppig brings Shek Yeung to life in a way I’ve never read before, which makes for a fascinating read.
Delighting velocireaders since 2017, Book Riot’s New Release Index will keep you in the know about all the latest books. Start your 14-day free trial today.
That’s it for this week! You can find me over on my substack Winchester Ave, over on Instagram @kdwinchester, or on my podcast Read Appalachia. As always, feel free to drop me a line at email@example.com. For even MORE bookish content, you can find my articles over on Book Riot.
Happy reading, Friends!