By Rebecca Rode
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In a world where female sailors are executed, sixteen-year-old Lane's dream of being a ship's captain seems impossible. Sea life is all she knows, and she wouldn't give it up for anything, even if it means she has to hide as a captain's boy to avoid being killed. But Lane's carefully constructed world begins to crumble when an old pirate enemy comes after her father. And she begins hearing rumors that her father was once a pirate as well.
Lane doesn't want to believe her father could have a dark past, but she can't help questioning everything she's known. After all, Lane's life at sea is built on lies—why couldn't her father's be, too?
Then a mysterious prince shows up, and Lane finds her very survival tied to a boy who could destroy everything. With pirates, betrayal, and death threatening Lane and those she loves, she must now decide between the future she always expected and a prince with an unknown agenda who she finds herself falling for. Lane must either protect herself and find a way to live her dream, or risk everything for a world where her very existence is a death sentence.
Maybe there's a third option. After all, she's never played by the rules before. Why start now?
It was the boots that tipped me off.
There were other signs too—the cap pulled low over the young man’s face, the hunched shoulders. Rather than watching the busy dockworkers around him, he stared resolutely at the mud near his feet. Even the too-bright and well-fitted shirt looked out of place despite the smear of dirt staining the front.
His shiny pointed boots, however, were completely impractical for a rainy day. Impractical for anything, really. Particularly taking a stroll about the harbor this early in the morning. This was no common sailor.
“Are you listening?” Father asked.
I snapped my gaze back to him and leaned against the ship’s rail. “I’m always listening.”
A heavy sigh meant that he thought otherwise. “I know you like to go ashore with the men, but it’s too dangerous this time. Perhaps in a month or two when the festival is over.”
And when King Eurion has better things to do than kill innocent girls, I wanted to add. But it would have been a waste of breath. Father never went back on his word once he’d declared it. Besides, I couldn’t deny that the very air around Hughen’s harbor had changed since I was here last. We’d had to pay extra for our usual berth. Raucous laughter had been replaced by quiet gossip exchanged among extra dockworkers. Most worrisome, though, was the increase in security. A patrol party passed by every ten minutes, its soldiers scanning faces in the crowd. It took everything I had not to adjust my disguise each time their gazes slid over me.
It didn’t mean I had to like it.
“I know there are… things… you need in town,” Father continued as a gust of wind swept his graying hair into his eyes. He brushed it aside with an impatient jerk. “Give your list to Dennis. He’ll get them for you before the day’s done.”
I snorted at the thought of Father’s crabby first officer selecting fabric for my chest bindings. “I’ve made the journey into town fifty times. Nobody ever pays me any heed.”
“Then we’ve been lucky fifty times. I won’t risk our luck running out on the fifty-first, not with the city on alert like this.”
I was losing this battle terribly, but I refused to yield. “They’re looking for women sailors, not a captain’s boy.”
He lifted one thick eyebrow. “They’re searching for pretty faces, feminine features, and high voices—all three of which you possess. You’d see that if you used my looking glass on occasion.”
I scowled. I’d perfected the art of hiding in plain sight—strutting about, training my voice to sound lower. Eating like the others. Nobody climbed the ratlines faster than I did, and I practiced with my axes nearly every day. I’d fooled hundreds of men over the years as crew members came and went. Yet none of that mattered to Father, the most paranoid man in the Four Lands.
He stood there watching me, his white shirt fastened right up to the collar as always, bright against skin weathered by long days at sea. A tiny shaving cut lay under his crooked chin. I’d lived on the Majesty for eleven years now, and I still didn’t know what he looked like with a beard. Whether his day included meeting a client or sitting alone by the constant sea, every last hair would see the blade of his razor.
To my surprise, he placed his hands firmly on my shoulders. In an instant, the stern merchant ship captain was gone, replaced by my father. “Lane. I mean it. They’ve erected a new sign on the way into town, a big Jilly Black. Whether you agree about the danger or not, you’ll remain inside my cabin or belowdecks until I return. Do you understand?”
My frown deepened. I’d been Lane Garrow since I was five year-days old, yet he still felt it necessary to lecture me. Did he truly think I could forget that the pompous king Eurion’s palace loomed on the cliffs above us right now?
“I do understand the danger. Really.”
It wasn’t a promise exactly, but he finally nodded. “Good. I’ll bring you back a crosuit. I’m dying for potatoes myself, ones that don’t stink like Julian’s armpits.”
I fought a smile and lost. “Agreed.”
Father gave my shoulders a squeeze. “I’ll see you in a few hours. We’ll dine like lords tonight.” He stalked down the gangplank and past the odd stranger without giving him a glance. The boy still stood rooted in place, a stone in the river of workers, gazing at the Majesty behind me. He took in her grand masts and furrowed sails with the awe of a child. If he’d noticed the exchange with my father, he didn’t seem to think much of it. Or he was better at pretending than I gave him credit for.
I examined him for a long moment. He was sixteen, possibly seventeen year-days. Medium-oak hair, skin untouched by the sun, slender build. I’d seen most of it before—boys leaving home for the first time, seeking work and adventure and escaping the demands of their parents. But something about this one felt… different.
Definitely the boots.
I waited till Father disappeared into the crowd before striding down the gangplank myself, set on driving the boy off. The Majesty took on sailors of all skill levels, but social levels were another matter entirely. He could take his pretty boots and pretty eyes to the Mum’s Commoner across the harbor.
“Lane!” Barrie shouted, barreling up the gangplank to stop me halfway down. “Be Cap’n Garrow here? You won’t be believing what I just heard.”
At fourteen, my station partner, Barrie, was the youngest sailor on the ship. He just didn’t know it, since I was supposed to be younger. His hammock was homespun rather than shop made, and he quietly sent most of his earnings home to his fourteen-member family in a distant farming town. He could wander Hughen alone without a second glance. Meanwhile, I had to hide like a scared child. Again.
“I can believe near anything.” I kept one eye on the stranger.
“Not this,” Barrie said, breathless with excitement. “That filthy pirate’s been freed. Cap’n Belza.”
Now I was the one gawking. Dread set me stiff as a board. “What?”
“It be true. Heard it in town. Two officials be talking about it, then I heard it again from a soldier. Messau’s new ruler set him free for good. Raymus, I think?”
I tried to speak, but the words felt caught in my suddenly dry throat. “Rasmus,” I managed. “He became khral of Messau when his father died last month. But Belza—are you certain?”
That was news. The last remaining member of Elena the Conqueror’s pirate crew had rotted in a dungeon in Messau for the past decade. It had been incredibly difficult for the old khral to capture the pirate in the first place. Why would his son free the man?
“There be even more.” Barrie leaned forward. His wide-set green eyes were a startling contrast to his black hair. It was a combination I wished the skies had bestowed upon me, instead of my rat-brown everything. “They say Cap’n Belza be asking around, looking for someone. Care to guess who?”
“King Eurion?” The Hughen king had been the one to deliver Belza into the original khral’s hands. Both had been desperate to lock him away, declaring that he’d never see freedom again.
Barrie’s eyes sparkled. “Our own Cap’n Garrow.”
My stomach thudded.
“Captain Garrow,” I repeated dully.
“Aye. Cap’n Belza—”
“Nay.” I stopped him with a sharp look. “Just Belza. He’s only captain if he has a ship, and he has no crew either.” Nor would any self-respecting sailor join him. Not when the entire world knew of Belza and his brutal crimes.
“But that be it—the khral gave him a ship and crew. Now he’s set out to find your father, Lane. He be looking for him now.”
The fact that Belza was now a privateer on the new khral’s errand was bad enough, but it barely registered. The second-most-deadly pirate in history sought my father. The paranoid man who charmed merchants and refused to carry a weapon and punished crew members who fought with one another. It couldn’t possibly be the same Captain Garrow.
“Where did you hear this, Barrie?”
“Everywhere. The entire city be talking about it. Nobody knows why Belza be so insistent. Maybe Garrow and Belza were enemies. Now that Belza be free, he seeks revenge. Some even say—” He caught my expression and swallowed. “Never mind.”
“What? You can tell me.”
“You won’t like it, I swear.”
I paused, the dread sinking deeper into my gut. “Quit playing around and say it.”
He lowered his voice, his eyes bright. “Some wonder if Cap’n Garrow be one of them. A pirate.”
I snorted as the dread faded in a single, abrupt rush. “A pirate? Certainly not.” The very idea was ridiculous. Father’s superstitious fears prevented him from even discussing pirates. If he knew that the history book hidden in my storage chest discussed the pirate captain Elena, he’d have burned it long ago.
Barrie looked grumpy at my dismissal. “But how do you know?”
“Because I know, all right?” I snapped. “Father is no more a pirate than you are, and I don’t appreciate your implying otherwise.”
Some of my anger drained away. Barrie received plenty of sharpness from the crew. He didn’t need it from me too. “I only meant to say there are a dozen explanations for this. Belza could have the wrong name, or perhaps the wrong Garrow altogether. My father probably has family members all over Hughen.” Except he never talked about them, let alone introduced us. He resented being asked about his past. I’d learned that lesson one rainy day at age eight.
It had been a simple question—“Why did you start sailing?”—and one many of the crew were happy to answer. Most sought adventure or dreamed of fighting pirates and traveling to distant lands. Others sought their fortune or escape from climbing debts. With a sly grin, one man had even admitted that he was simply avoiding his angry wife.
But Father’s answer was a long, cold stare. It was the first and only time I’d ever wondered whether he would strike me.
“If I ever want to tell you of my past, Lane,” he’d finally said, “I will bring up the subject. Otherwise, you will allow me my privacy. Understood?”
My childhood mind had invented all sorts of explanations for his reluctance. A father who’d beaten and driven him to the sea. Parents who’d died in a plague and left him to fend for himself. Perhaps he’d been raised by a set of cruel, wealthy grandparents who’d forced him to spend his days with tutors until he’d had enough and run away. None of my imaginings had ever involved piracy. Why would they? Father was the most honest person I knew—far more honest than I ever wanted to be.
Except there was one secret he would never reveal. Mine. And if he’d lied about that, what else had he lied about?
That dread was back, heavier than ever.
“He was never a pirate,” I said again, less sure this time. “The rumor will die by this time tomorrow. My father is the most dependable merchant ship captain in Hughen, and everyone knows it. Especially the crew.” Father respected his men and they trusted him. Surely his reputation would lift him above this silly rumor.
Barrie folded his arms. “Ignore it, then. We’ll be completely unprepared when Belza be finding us. Which he will. Or you can be getting the truth of it from the cap’n so we can ready ourselves.”
I flinched. He had a point. We couldn’t escape Belza forever. But I couldn’t exactly ask my father whether he’d served with one of the most deadly pirates in history. He’d either laugh or refuse to speak to me again. That meant I had to find my own answers—and I knew exactly where they lay.
Every bosun kept detailed records of his crew. If Father had been a pirate, his name would appear on the crew list preserved in town, carved into stone below the queen’s statue. It was less than half an hour’s walk from here. So long as I returned before Father, he would never know.
“Do me a favor,” I told Barrie. “If anyone asks, I’m staying belowdecks today. That’s where you found me and that’s where I stayed. Aye?”
He’d barely agreed before I plunged past him down the gangplank and into the crowd. My feet moved of their own accord, but my mind ran miles ahead even as my heart lagged behind. This was more than disobedience. It felt like betrayal. Father was the only family I had. Frustrating as his fears were, they were rooted in love. Today I would repay him with the worst kind of doubt imaginable. But I had to prove his innocence.
More than that, I had to know the truth for myself.
It wasn’t until I’d nearly left the docks that I remembered the strange boy. Did he have something to do with all this? Whirling about, I scanned the crowd once more. He was gone.
There are more important questions to be answered, I reminded myself. The seconds already slipped away too quickly.
The heaviness in my gut felt as thick as the crowd with each step toward town. But this would be nothing compared to the festival crowds in a few weeks. Those could suffocate a person, true as the morning sun. I could imagine it all. Blue ribbons strung through the streets, shop fronts packed with wine and expensive cheeses. There would be no geese or hens hanging from the butcher’s cart here—Hughens were too superstitious—but the fish stands would be packed with fresh seafood. Drunken Messaun guests would stumble about until the sun made its appearance. Khral Rasmus’s arrival would be celebrated with a parade through town ending at the palace. There, the two kings would renew their twenty-year treaty in front of a group of clapping lords and ladies.
Treaties, wars, politics—Father had kept us removed from all of it, and that policy had served us well for over a decade. The Hughen people could celebrate another twenty years of peace without me. This was my father’s country, not mine. No country on the planet had claim on Lane Garrow. Especially one that would see me dead.
I walked quickly, sticking to the rails to avoid wagons and the occasional soldier. Only one thing felt exactly the same as before—the heavy, solid ground underfoot. Passengers complained about how our ship lurched and moved about with the sea, but to me, it was beautiful. A perfect balance between ship and water, neither servant nor master. If there was anything unnatural, it was trying to walk on land. Solid, unfeeling land.
At least Hughen’s seasonal rain had cleared the air some. These docks still reeked of old fish and ill-drained refuse, but the blessed winds had swept most of the stench out to sea. Mud was a far cry better than stifling heat and the sweat collecting in the bindings that hid my criminal femininity.
I stepped around a pile of dung with bits of grass poking out like spiky green hair and continued on. They’d installed cobblestone since I was here last. Yet from the gaps along the edge marked by crude warning signs, I could see they weren’t finished. So silly. What good were cobblestones to protect one’s boots when horses did their business all over the place? I preferred dirt streets, even when it meant muddy winters. At least mud was honest.
There. A new sign stood at the footbridge leading toward town, larger and brighter than its predecessor. It boasted a figure wearing a black dress and holding an axe. A bloodred X had been painted over her. NO PIRATES, screamed bold lettering. The Jilly Black symbol. Like the old sign, it wore splatters of old spit along the bottom edge.
It was ironic—male pirates had terrorized the four brother nations for centuries, yet the universal symbol for pirate was a woman. Not just any woman, but the one who’d nearly accomplished the unthinkable. Captain Elena and her fearsome crew had defeated three of the Four Lands. She’d come closer to conquering the world than any man who’d ever tried.
Granted, she had nearly destroyed it in the attempt. And granted, her execution had spawned the King’s Edict and complicated my life considerably. She’d scared the nations’ leaders so badly, men cursed her name and spat at the thought of her. But there was one detail they’d gotten terribly wrong. Historians and witnesses all agreed that Elena had never worn a dress in her life.
I stared at the sign, imagining a crossed-out figure next to Elena. What would King Eurion do to my father if he really was a pirate? Did he face prison like Belza, or execution like the other members of Elena’s crew? If this madness were indeed true, it would be just as important to protect my father’s secret as my own. Nobody could know. As far as the world went, it wouldn’t change a thing.
And yet it would change everything.
No matter how devastating the truth, I couldn’t turn back now. I wouldn’t be given this opportunity again. I pushed past the sign and strode on.
The walk into town required crossing three busy footbridges over unusually high water for this early in the season. I dodged between two carts and trotted across the street toward the fabric shop, only to find my path blocked by two well-dressed and incredibly slow women. A heavy lavender scent tainted the wind. The women swung their hips as they sauntered, looking much like fly-bitten mules. Did that actually attract men? I really had no idea.
Yet foolish as they looked, at least they didn’t have to hide who they were.
I was about to walk past when I noticed a stringy-haired child trailing one of the women. Her once-yellow dress hung too short, exposing a pair of bare feet, dirty from the streets. An orphan. Rumors said many of Hughen’s orphans had disappeared lately—kidnapped off the streets for military service, some believed, though I wasn’t sure about that. Slavery was illegal here. More likely that the boys got picked up by sponsors wanting cheap labor. But the girls? Their options were begging or the brothel—both paths I’d narrowly avoided myself.
It wasn’t her dress that tore at me, however. It was the girl’s bewildered look, as if in disbelief that she was now utterly alone.
I’d felt that way once. The image emerged unbidden… reaching for the comfort of my mum’s hand and watching her stalk away instead.
“Pardon, ma’am,” the beggar said, ignoring me and addressing the taller woman wearing the blue gown. “Have you a coin to spare?”
The women’s pasted-on smiles froze. Blue Dress lifted her nose, huffed, and backhanded the girl clean across the face. The child yelped and stumbled, hitting the ground hard.
I moved before I had time to think, blocking the woman’s escape. “A simple nay would suffice, Your Ladyship.”
The first woman just blinked, but the one next to her, in green, snickered. “Do not address us in such a manner, boy. Move aside before I call the guards to remove you. I’ve no desire to touch… that.” She gestured to my clothes.
I folded my arms and waited.
“Oh, never mind.” Blue Dress grabbed her companion’s arm and strode off into the road, shoving me against a shop window. A rider jerked his bay gelding to a stop just in time, so close that the horse could’ve sneezed in their faces. I wished he had. The rider watched with gritted teeth as the ladies passed.
The orphan sat in stunned silence on the ground where she’d landed. What faded yellow had remained of her dress was now a uniform mud brown.
“Steer clear of lords and ladies,” I hissed, hauling her to her feet and digging my last two coins from my pocket. She snatched them from my outstretched palm and scampered away without a word. Her rudeness was a comfort. She’d learned a hard lesson today, but she’d be all right.
The statue was only a few blocks away now. I picked up the pace and had just turned the last corner when a long scream pierced the air, pulling me to a sudden halt.
The distant sound of hooves on cobblestone echoed against buildings from the direction of the docks. Travelers scrambled to clear the road. Behind them, a team of white stallions clattered toward us, hauling a tidy wagon filled with rigid soldiers. A single woman sat at their center, bound in an intricate network of chains save her hay-colored hair whipping in the wind.
“Three years since the last Jilly execution,” someone muttered, “and this’ll be the second in a week.”
Every muscle in my body went taut. I struggled to keep my face impassive as I turned to the man, a baker, standing behind his cart. “They’re searching ships at port? For women?”
“Part of the king’s cleansing. Random inspections from now till the festival.” The baker grimaced, his lips covering a set of brown teeth.
I cleared my suddenly dry throat. “King Eurion’s never done that before.”
“Nay, but with the khral coming, s’pose he thought it best. The last prisoner kept yelling that she was a passenger, not a sailor, but they hanged her anyway. Must’ve got too hard to tell the difference.” He shook his head. Whether for the poor woman or her excuse, I couldn’t tell.
Horror held me rigidly in place. If I’d remained at the ship like Father had asked…
My heart drummed in my rib cage, so loudly I feared the man could hear it. It could have been me in that wagon. So close.
I straightened my vest and looked about, but the entire market’s eyes were focused on the prisoner. The crowds parted slowly, forcing the wagon to a crawl. I could see the woman’s terror-filled expression now. She skimmed faces and shouted again. This time I caught the word. Marcu. A southern name. Was Marcu a lover or a family member? Not that it mattered. Only the king could pardon her now, and that was as likely as a sea monster wearing a dress and dancing in the square.
The church bell began to toll. Come witness a pirate’s death. It wasn’t a request. The entire city was expected to attend.
A single thought pounded in my head like a hand drum. If they treated a suspected pirate like this, what would they do to a known one?
Somber mothers gathered their children. Men collected their purchases and trotted off, some looking eager. Those sitting behind carts full of wares only lowered their heads, silently tracing wards on their chests to shield them from dark spirits. It was good fortune to witness a criminal’s execution—a person could send their troubles with the dead into the afterlife and come away cleansed.
But this wasn’t a criminal. It was simply a woman who’d dared set foot on a ship. A decision that would cost her life.
My hands formed tight fists. Another hanging body that would haunt my dreams for months. Another innocent soul sent to join Elena in the afterlife, assumed a pirate simply because she lacked manly parts. Robbed of happiness and a future, and punished for violence she’d never dreamed of committing. She wouldn’t even get a trial. Meanwhile, I’d set out to see if my father was guilty of the same crime.
Because if he bore pirate blood… so did I.
One thing was clear. Sprinting to the ship now would bring attention upon myself, and I didn’t even know if it was safe there. Besides, the poor prisoner deserved at least one witness who cared. My errand could wait. I hoped.
I squared my shoulders, feeling hundreds of invisible eyes on me as the bindings beneath my shirt pulled tight. Then I followed the others.
It took only fifteen minutes for the entire town to pack themselves into the square, shoulder to shoulder. Hastily invented stories of the condemned woman’s crimes whipped through the crowd. I placed myself on the group’s edge, too far for the gossip to reach and hopefully too far to see well. I focused on the oversized woven hat of the plump woman blocking my view and tried to ignore the whispers filling the air like a brutal wind. The bindings beneath my shirt were damp enough for a good wringing.
A quick glance revealed that the nearest guard stood several horses’ distance away. I felt his eyes sweep over me as he inspected the crowd. No reaction, but I tensed anyway. Beyond him, I could make out the gallows’ highest timber. Several knotted ropes lay across it. Only one would be used today.
The gallows’ placement was a chilling reminder of royal power. They’d built it upon the spot where King Eurion beheaded his wife’s murderer, Elena the Conqueror. But that hadn’t been enough for him. His infamous Edict had followed later that day. An Edict that would forever follow me like a thief in the shadows.
Today I felt the thief’s hand on my shoulder.
I scanned the audience, but Father’s three-cornered hat was nowhere to be seen. Engaged in business elsewhere, perhaps, and too busy to attend? Or did he have as much cause to hide as I did?
“They’re unloading the Jilly,” a man drawled from the rooftop above me. When I narrowed my eyes at him, he just grinned and tipped a bottle toward the gallows. He knew as well as I did that this woman was no Jilly, but now wasn’t the time to correct him. Most of these observers would discuss the young woman’s murder tonight along with other gossip like the upcoming festival and the palace’s new cat, which was barely news at all, considering the royal family already owned fourteen.
Meanwhile, a new body would be rowed out to sea and dumped with the city’s waste. A body that didn’t look all that different from mine.
- “This book is hard to put down…it’s sure to empower female readers to follow their dreams. A rollicking choice for younger teens.” – School Library Journal
- "The high-seas setting, budding romance, and big dreams will sweep idealistic readers right into the narrative.... Swashbuckling with feminist overtones." — Kirkus
- "Lane makes for a relentlessly resourceful heroine, and her undeniable chemistry with Aden, as well as her tight-knit bond with her father, fuels the emotional core of this enjoyable nautical fantasy." — Publishers Weekly
- "Tides of Mutiny is a swashbuckling romp with a dark underbelly, both fierce and full of heart." — Tracy Banghart, author of the Grace and Fury duology and A Season of Sinister Dreams
"A fun, gripping story, packed with action, lore and romance. Tides of Mutiny will carry you on the adventure of a lifetime." — Claire M. Andrews, author of Daughter of Sparta
"Rebecca Rode is a true storyteller. In Tides of Mutiny, she weaves a tale as mesmerizing and dangerous as the sea herself. A rollicking high-seas adventure threaded through with breathless romance and something to say: that a woman's place is on a pirate ship. This will keep teens reading long past curfew, as sure as it did me." — Brianna Shrum, author of Never Never
- "I was totally swept up in Tides of Mutiny, a nautical adventure packed with a perfect mix of intrigue at sea, bloody mutiny, dark family secrets, and a heroine who longs to defy the rules." — Sarah Tolcser, author of Song of the Current
- On Sale
- Mar 7, 2023
- Page Count
- 400 pages
- JIMMY Patterson Books
About the Author
Rebecca Rode is an award-winning author of YA fantasy and science fiction that stars fierce girls crushing societal barriers. Her work has appeared on the USA Today and Wall Street Journal bestseller lists. She lives in the Rocky Mountains with her family, two cats, overflowing bookshelves, and nerdy sock collection. Learn more about her books at AuthorRebeccaRode.com.