The Wicked Bargain by Gabe Cole Novoa #bookreview #YA #fantasy #pirates #LGBTQ #TuesdayBookBlog

El Diablo is in the details in this Latinx pirate fantasy starring a transmasculine nonbinary teen with a mission of revenge, redemption, and revolution.

On Mar León-de la Rosa’s 16th birthday, el Diablo comes calling. Mar is a transmasculine nonbinary teen pirate hiding a magical ability to manipulate fire and ice. But their magic isn’t enough to reverse a wicked bargain made by their father and now el Diablo has come to collect his payment: the soul of Mar’s father and the entire crew of their ship.

When Mar is miraculously rescued by the sole remaining pirate crew in the Caribbean, el Diablo returns to give them a choice: give up your soul to save your father by the Harvest Moon or never see him again. The task is impossible–Mar refuses to make a bargain and there’s no way their magic is any match for el Diablo. Then, Mar finds the most unlikely allies: Bas, an infuriatingly arrogant and handsome pirate — and the captain’s son; and Dami, a genderfluid demonio whose motives are never quite clear. For the first time in their life, Mar may have the courage to use their magic. It could be their only redemption — or it could mean certain death. 

I love a good pirate story. Throw in some magic, deals with the devil, adventure on the high seas and you’ve got yourself a thrilling read.

Mar is such an easy character to root for. They possess powerful magic and struggle to control it, but after accidentally hurting people several years ago, they consider themselves a monster. Despite Mar’s power, they’re unable to save their father and crew when the devil comes to collect payment for a deal Mar’s father made years ago. Subsequently, Mar loses their entire family, but when they’re rescued by the last remaining pirate ship in the Caribbean, Mar has the opportunity to join another one. Found family is my favorite trope, so the emphasis on that aspect made me happy.

The crew from Mar’s ship are gone, but el Diablo holds Mar’s father in a kind of limbo. He gives Mar two moons to save their father – if Mar accepts a bargain from el Diablo. They refuse, but Mar is still determined to find a way to save Papa. Demonio Dami offers to help Mar, but also has an agenda of their own. Throughout the story, there’s a brewing romance between Mar and Bas, the captain’s son. It’s a sweet relationship, but I felt more vibes between Mar and Dami. It would have been interesting to explore.

The settings are so vivid and descriptive I felt like I was there on the ship and nearly needed to wipe salt water from my face. Pacing was a little slow for my taste at the beginning, but around 60% it took off, and I didn’t want to put down the book. The author’s note mentioned that while none of the pirates are real, they were loosely inspired by real-life Latinx pirates, a detail I thought added a degree of authenticity.

Pirates, a narcissistic demon, el Diablo, magic – they all form a perfect storm of an adventurous read.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley.  Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

17 thoughts on “The Wicked Bargain by Gabe Cole Novoa #bookreview #YA #fantasy #pirates #LGBTQ #TuesdayBookBlog

  1. I’m not sure I’d push through 60% of a book with a slow pace, but kudos to you for sticking it out. Seems like it paid off for you. And I agree with Mae; it is cool that the fictional pirates were loosely based on real ones. Thanks, Teri.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I like pirates, high-seas adventures, magic, and unusual characters that are easy to root for. I wish the first half didn’t seem a bit slow, but the story has a lot going for it with those other elements. Thanks for your review!

    Liked by 1 person

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