Book Review: Swashbucklers by Dan Hanks

When Cisco Collins returns to his home town thirty years after saving it from being swallowed by a hell mouth opened by an ancient pirate ghost, he realises that being a childhood hero isn’t like it was in the movies.

Especially when nobody remembers the heroic bits – even the friends who once fought alongside him.

Struggling with single parenting and treated as bit of a joke, Cisco isn’t really in the Christmas spirit like everyone else. A fact that’s made worse by the tendrils of the pirate’s powers creeping back into our world and people beginning to die in bizarre ways.

With the help of a talking fox, an enchanted forest, a long-lost friend haunting his dreams, and some 80s video game consoles turned into weapons, Cisco must now convince his friends to once again help him save the day. Yet they quickly discover that being a ghostbusting hero is so much easier when you don’t have schools runs, parent evenings, and nativity plays to attend. And even in the middle of a supernatural battle, you always need to bring snacks and wipes…

I love this cover, its so eye catching and perfectly captures the feel of the book

When I saw this book being talked on Twitter I knew I needed to read it. It ticked so many of my fantasy boxes (I never can resist stories with animal companions), sounded like great fun and the idea of trying to save the world while juggling everyday adult life was such a great one that I don’t think I’ve read before.

I really enjoyed this one. Being not far off the age of Cisco, Doc and the others, with children of a similar age this felt like a very relatable fantasy romp. Having adult protagonists rather than teen ones somehow made it feel a lot more real.  I loved the fact that in the middle of fighting unnatural beings they had to stop and run off and pick up the kids from school or cook dinner.

Tabitha the talking fox was awesome, and a great way to link our world with another mystical one. I wouldn’t have minded seeing even more of her but the balance felt about right, in her role as enigmatic but not always very helpful guide.

If I had one small niggle with this book it was with the age of Cisco’s son George. We are told very early on that George is eight years old. Then very quickly in a chase sequence Cisco picks George up to run with him faster and George falls asleep on his shoulder, not something an eight year old would do or put up with in my experience and running while carrying an eight year old certainly wouldn’t be easy. This age-skipping carry’s on throughout the book – sometime George ‘reads’ as around three and others the eight year old we are told he is – it isn’t a huge deal as he’s not around all the time but it pulled me out of the story a little when he appeared.

At its heart, despite all the awesome fantasy elements this is a story about growing up, how we hold on to our childhoods (or let them go) and the expectations we place upon ourselves.

A fun fantasy romp that I thoroughly enjoyed.

Swashbucklers is available now.