"'I’ve taught you one of the most valuable lessons in this life.'
'And what is that?' She pursed her lips, waiting for his answer.
'Never trust a pirate.'"
Pirates. Competition. Magic.
Did I mention the pirates?
I wanted to like this, I really did. I mean, pirates, a ruthless bid for the throne, and a band of misfits?? Crossbones has all the makings of a great fantasy but never delivered. Unfortunately, it feels more like an unfinished rough draft than a complete story getting ready to hit the shelves.
Despite my occasional trips down random fanfiction internet rabbit holes, I’ve somehow managed to avoid Wattpad, but I get the sense it gets a bad rap for being a cesspool of terrible writing. (Feel free to correct me if I’m wrong.) I don’t think Crossbones is butt-of-the-joke, deserving-of-ridicule bad. It’s got a solid premise and a decent foundation to build off of. The problem is, it’s just kind of a lackluster, forgettable story that you’d expect from, well, your average, run-of-the-mill fanfic writer. (Not knocking fanfic writers, but you have to admit, there’s a ton of fanfiction out there that’s just painful to read.)
There’s nothing particularly wrong with Crossbones; it’s just unremarkable. We get the bare bones of the story without much character development or worldbuilding. The plot is fun but predictable, and because nothing is particularly developed, it’s hard to feel particularly invested in the story.
Don’t let the synopsis fool you; the cast is essentially made up of cardboard cutouts. We get the standard personality types found in YA without any kind of development: there’s the tortured, brooding rogue, the heartbroken Strong Female Character, and the orphaned Chosen One who bears a strong resemblance to Mary Sue. Oh, and let’s not forget the smirking love interest who isn’t included on the book jacket roundup. Together, the quartet makes up the Seven Archetypes of YA: broody, angsty, grumpy, bitter, angry, vengeful and fearless. I don’t have an issue with these character types or reusing tropes in general, but there’s nothing special about this collection of characters. Vale doesn’t bring anything new to the table, and there isn’t a single memorable person in the book. With such vanilla characters, it’s no surprise the romance ends up being blander than Wonder Bread.
The writing is kind of what you’d expect from an amateur writer dipping his/her toe into the sea of fanfiction. Like the characters, the storytelling is overly simplistic. The use of multiple POVs doesn’t add anything to the story and honestly just feels like a poor attempt to mimic some Six of Crows vibes. There’s a complete lack of worldbuilding. It honestly feels like Vale just waved her hand, yelling, “magic!” instead of developing and explaining a magical system.
The story is super rushed, and the book lacks any kind of tension because problems arise and resolve so quickly. Because we jump from scene to scene, things are just a little too easy and the stakes are never really established in a meaningful way. There isn’t really anything for the reader to hold onto to develop any kind of investment in the story. Most of the romantic relationships and friendships form over the course of a chapter or two, so they never really feel genuine. It’s all very superficial, which makes Crossbones ideal if you’re looking for a quick book to skim through, but not-so-great if you want to be emotionally invested in any way.
Petty Points: This is a personal pet peeve, but there’s a character that hisses a lot, and the instancessss with multiple s’ssss got annoying after a while. I also feel lied to because I signed up for a standalone but it turned into a trilogy