I received this book for review. This does not impact the content of my review.

The Unbinding of Mary Reade by Miriam McNamara

Book: The Unbinding of Mary Reade
Author: Miriam McNamara
Published: June 19, 2018
Publisher: Sky Pony Press
Genre: Young Adult, Historical
Format: Hardcover
Source: Provided for review


A clever, romantic novel based on the true story of a girl who disguised herself as a boy to sail with the infamous pirates Anne Bonny and Calico Jack—and fell in love with Anne Bonny.

There’s no place for a girl in Mary’s world. Not in the home of her mum, desperately drunk and poor. Not in the household of her wealthy granny, where no girl can be named an heir. And certainly not in the arms of Nat, her childhood love who never knew her for who she was. As a sailor aboard a Caribbean merchant ship, Mary’s livelihood—and her safety—depends on her ability to disguise her gender.

At least, that’s what she thinks is true. But then pirates attack the ship, and in the midst of the gang of cutthroats, Mary spots something she never could have imagined: a girl pirate.

The sight of a girl standing unafraid upon the deck, gun and sword in hand, changes everything. In a split-second decision, Mary turns her gun on her own captain, earning herself the chance to join the account and become a pirate alongside Calico Jack and Anne Bonny.

For the first time, Mary has a shot at freedom. But imagining living as her true self is easier, it seems, than actually doing it. And when Mary finds herself falling for the captain’s mistress, she risks everything—her childhood love, her place among the crew, and even her life.

Breathlessly romantic and brilliantly subversive, The Unbinding of Mary Reade is sure to sweep readers off their feet and make their hearts soar.  (Goodreads)

Buy: Book Depository

My rating: 2 stars
I liked parts…but not all.


I really wanted to like this one. The cover is gorgeous. The synopsis is exciting and intriguing.


It fell kind of flat for me. I struggled to get through it. After putting it down, I wasn’t excited to pick it back up.

That isn’t to say it isn’t exciting at points. It is. There are a couple of pirate ambushes and some pretty heady love scenes. I wasn’t super invested, though.

The character’s just didn’t grip me. I wasn’t rooting for them as much as I would have liked.

Mary struggles, a lot. She’s lived her life pretending to be a boy. No one other than her mother knows she’s got girl parts. She wants to be true to herself, but doesn’t know how because she doesn’t know who she truly is. Is she girl? Is she boy? Is she something else? And, will she be hanged for dressing like a boy? For being attracted to a woman? On top of all that, she still loves her childhood best friend, Nat.

It was interesting to follow along with Mary as she tried to figure out where she fits. In today’s terms, I think she’d probably identify as bisexual, and maybe even trans. But, it wasn’t her own desire to dress and act like a male originally — it was forced upon her by her mom. So maybe she wouldn’t be trans? I’m not sure. Either way, her identity struggles are the defining part of her character.

And Anne. Anne’s character bothered me. She’s strong and opinionated. But she’s also flighty. She definitely adds flair to Mary’s world.  I didn’t find their romance to be romantic, but rather more along the lines of Mary being attracted and Anne taking advantage of Mary and using her for her own means.

The Unbinding of Mary Reade is told in date-stamped chapters to jump between past and present to tell the story in an engaging way.

I found it neat to jump around a bit and have Mary’s present illuminated by a quick jump into her past. It made what could have been a very slow beginning into a much more interesting story by sprinkling the more boring/everyday parts throughout the book. But I also found it confusing at times, needing to flip pages to remind myself what the year was that she was here or there. The bits of past don’t follow a clear chronological path – they might be chronological in order but not close enough that it was obvious to me. And, to be honest, they probably weren’t all necessary.

Unfortunately, this book just wasn’t for me.

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Do you know any other books about female pirates?


A book about a girl who falls in love with a female pirate. Book review on trishajennreads.com

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