Review: Pirates, Dinosaurs, epic adventuring… it’s Pirates Of Pangaea
Pirates Of Pangaea Volume 1
By Daniel Hartwell and Neill Cameron
Phoenix / David Fickling Books
Well, here’s a book you really can judge by its cover. I know a lot of kids at school will be jumping up and down for this one. DINOSAURS! PIRATES!
Seriously. Look again at that cover. A young girl with a sword riding a blue T-Rex with the skull and crossbones flag behind her? And in the background there’s dinosaurs carrying old sailing ships on their backs. Think back to you as a 10, 11, 12 year old. Isn’t that just brilliantly, utterly cool? I mean, look at this…
It’s a massive pirate ship strapped to the back of a Brontosaurus. This is going to be fantastic!
(Spoiler. It is)
It’s 1717 and we’re voyaging onboard a ship bound for the newly discovered island of Pangaea…
“One bit left over. One piece forgotten by time an’ left to the devil. The last bit o’ the old world. The oldest land there is. Pangaea.”
And into this strange and terribly dangerous world comes 12-year old Sophie Delacourt, niece of the Governor of the British Colony (it’s 1717, of course us Brits have colonised this newfound landmass). We’ll follow this particularly brave young girl through so much, an epic adventure where she’ll meet bloodthirsty bands of Pirates sailing the deadly green land-seas of Pangaea in ships strapped to the backs of the largest of beasts, whilst below, Bellyrippers in the tall grasses mean certain death for anyone unfortunate enough to fall overboard, or those made to walk the plank.
Just to give you an idea of who’s who, here’s Sophie’s first indication that things on Pangaea are going to be unlike anything she’s ever experienced:
Pirates Of Pangaea was part of The Phoenix Comic right from the start, the introductory chapter in this collection appearing in issue zero of the comic. Across multiple issues the team of Hartwell and Cameron have built up a very traditional adventure, harking back to the classics, a Saturday morning serial feel whose huge appeal of giant dinosaurs and skull and crossbones pirate action can’t be underestimated. But within that traditional structure, that kiddie wish fulfilment of mashing up two firm favourites, there’s the important addition of a very strong, very capable, incredibly brave young girl. It adds a freshness to the whole thing well beyond the fantasy setting.
You get the true measure of Sophie as her ship heads into Pangaea for the first time and sees a sight she’ll never forget…
Her reaction to seeing the ‘long necks‘ for the first time not only impresses the ‘snuffman‘ at the head of the beast, but also shows just how brave and matter of fact Sophie is. It’s something that marks Pirates of Pangaea out, Sophie being everything you could want, resourceful, clever, brave, very much the hero of the tale. It’s been a feature of The Phoenix that it makes great characters for all children to find totally aspirational, and Sophie’s a perfect example of this, a great piece of characterisation, a magnificent hero for girls to look up to and for boys to see as every bit their equal.
Over this volume you’ll adventure along with Sophie, her habit of falling headlong into trouble necessary to move things along epitomised by her first incredible misfortune to be captured by Captain Brookes and his band of cut-throats within the first few pages. Following this, the action is frenetic, meeting captured cabin-boy Kelsey, escaping via a Razorbeak alongside the can he/can’t he be trusted 10-Gun Jones, so named because… yes, you guessed it. There are more pirates, more dinosaurs, incredible sights, smuggler’s caves, fantastic danger, a search for golden treasure on ‘The Forbidden Isle’, lost native tribes, the works… it just keeps throwing things at you, never letting up, rolicking along at perfect adventuring pace.
Perhaps best of all, as you can see from the cover, there’s the not inconsiderable matter of ‘Cornflower’, Sophie’s tamed T-Rex.
Yes, she’s made of strong stuff is Sophie. Great character, a wonderfully aspirational character for all children to enjoy.
Which pretty much sums up the book. A wonderful thing for all children to enjoy, Hartwell and Cameron a great team, Cameron’s artwork familiar to us from Mo-Bot High, and the current Mega Robo Bros, but here we have a style designed to deliver both scale and pace, scale in the frequent double page spreads filled with those big, big dinos, pace in his excellent storytelling, delivering all the story without dragging anything out, a fast read that’s always eminently readable for all-ages.
It’s a really well put together collection as well, with a tremendous amount of thought going into the little details, most obviously those chapter break pages, all designed to be pages from Kelsey’s “Indigenous Fauna of the Pangaea Land Mass”, complete with topical, experience led observations in Kelsey’s hand…
Yes, time to join in the fun.
Pirates Of Pangaea, a book that you can not only judge by its cover, but one that completely and totally lives up to its cover as well. Pirates! Dinosaurs! Every bit as wonderful together as you expect to be, every bit as brilliant as you wanted it to be.