Eli Brown’s Cinnamon and Gunpowder

posted January 15, 2016

The Nutshell

I disliked this book for the first three quarters and adored it in the end. It’s well researched, well written, and the story is so good someone in Hollywood has to make it into a movie. The problem is the narrator, who is for the most part a wallflower at a riotous party. It made much of the action read like a mildly-engaging history text instead of an exciting piece of fiction.

The Breakdown

A female pirate of idealized beauty and ruthlessness kidnaps a chef of idealized skill and Puritanical sensibilities. The supporting cast of characters is rich and fun, but it’s as if the author picked the least interesting one of all to be the focus of the entire novel. It’s not that you hate the man, Chef Owen Wedgewood, it’s just that he spends most of the book obsessed with the idea of escape and even at times reform of his captors. All of this comes with an origin story that let’s the reader know this guy was the servant of an arrogant and corrupt ass prior to being taken aboard the pirate ship.

The pirate, Mad Hannah Mabbot, is a prototypical hooker with a heart of gold. She’s merciless when she needs to be, but also demonstrates early and often that she’s both fair and grateful to her crew, and to human life in general. She might mutilate a man and hang him on a mast as an example to wrong-doers, but she also frees slaves and detests drug abuse. She’s a complex character who develops with consistency throughout the story. You learn a little more about her with every chapter and all of it supports what you’ve discovered to that point. I was there with the author from start to finish, the execution was flawless.

The kidnapped chef, Wedgewood, on the other hand is an inexplicable Uncle Tom. I at least didn’t buy the character’s development from chapter to chapter. On the surface it seemed reasonable, but it doesn’t stand up to the circumstances. His behavior and feelings towards the crew seems like a plot device more than anything. If he had been an arrogant rich douche-bag like his employer it may have worked, but the fact that he was basically taken from one servile situation to another makes his continued attitude and snobbery seem forced and annoying.

The blurbs on the book jacket let you know it’s a love story, and it’s obvious that will have to come wrapped in the same paper as a fish out of water. When it’s so clear so early where something is going I’m all for a story getting there as quickly as possible. The real story begins when the character starts that transformation. Owen’s transformation comes too late, and in being so late must be explained with a convenient plot device that didn’t ring true for me. The book I was waiting for based on the first 40 pages didn’t come until the last 40, so the brilliance in the middle is obscured by a cloud you are always waiting to clear. When you see the sun in the end it is wonderful, but then in moments, it’s gone.

cinnamon and gunpowder
If you’d like to read Cinnamon and Gunpowder this cover image links to Amazon. Happy Shopping!

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