Sunday, June 16, 2013

Book Review: Cinnamon and Gunpowder

Cinnamon and GunpowderAuthor: Eli Brown
Publication Date: June 4, 2013
Publisher: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux

A gripping adventure, a seaborne romance, and a twist on the tale of Scheherazade—with the best food ever served aboard a pirate’s ship

The year is 1819, and the renowned chef Owen Wedgwood has been kidnapped by the ruthless pirate Mad Hannah Mabbot. He will be spared, she tells him, as long as he puts exquisite food in front of her every Sunday without fail.

To appease the red-haired captain, Wedgwood gets cracking with the meager supplies on board. His first triumph at sea is actual bread, made from a sourdough starter that he leavens in a tin under his shirt throughout a roaring battle, as men are cutlassed all around him. Soon he’s making tea-smoked eel and brewing pineapple-banana cider.

But Mabbot—who exerts a curious draw on the chef—is under siege. Hunted by a deadly privateer and plagued by a saboteur hidden on her ship, she pushes her crew past exhaustion in her search for the notorious Brass Fox. As Wedgwood begins to sense a method to Mabbot’s madness, he must rely on the bizarre crewmembers he once feared: Mr. Apples, the fearsome giant who loves to knit; Feng and Bai, martial arts masters sworn to defend their captain; and Joshua, the deaf cabin boy who becomes the son Wedgwood never had.
Cinnamon and Gunpowder is a swashbuckling epicure’s adventure simmered over a surprisingly touching love story—with a dash of the strangest, most delightful cookbook never written. Eli Brown has crafted a uniquely entertaining novel full of adventure: the Scheherazade story turned on its head, at sea, with food.

The devil himself whispers in her ear, I’d wager.

Dear Mr. Wedgewood,

         Welcome to the Flying Rose. I hope you have settled to sea comfortably. Your lot may improve in direct proportion to your willingness. I do look forward to more of your fare. Let me lay out my proposal: You will, of a Sunday, cook for me, and me alone, the finest supper. You will neither repeat a dish nor serve foods that are in the slightest degree mundane. In return I will continue to keep you alive and well, and we may discuss an improvement of your quarters after a time. Should you balk in any fashion you will find yourself swimming home, whole or in pieces, depending upon the severity of my disappointment. How does this strike you?


                                                                                    In anticipation,

                                                                                             Capt. Hannah Mabbot

For the second time since this horrible trial began, I laughed. What else could be done? She was as mad as the legends warned.

Owen Wedgewood is a world-renowned chef whose life changing abruptly when he meets Mad Hannah Mabbot on the high seas. He is taken captive on her ship called The Flying Rose, and in order to stay alive Mad Mabbot bargains with him. She tells him that he has to cook for her, and her alone, every Sunday. Not only must he prepare the finest meals he knows, they must all be different. Not to mention he is in the middle of the deep, blue sea and his pillage is limited. Owen obliges and accepts the deal in order to save his own skin. He has no idea just how this will play out, but he hopes to have a plan of escape concocted before too long. Mad Mabbot is not quite your average pirate, however, and Owen begins to learn more about her than he cares to know.

A lady pirate! Let me repeat that….A LADY PIRATE! Yes, a fierce, passionate, totally amazing lady pirate. I was so in awe at the premise of this book, and I never wanted it to end. I was so sad when my travels with Mad Mabbot and Owen were over. We, as the readers, only ever see Hannah through Owen’s eyes because the story is told from his journals. Hannah is fierce and the type of character that makes movies. I literally got chills up my spine when they first sat down to a Sunday meal together. Mad Mabbot questions Owen who has no idea how to react, but figures he should probably speak and save his limbs. The times when these two were together were some of my favorites! Go get this book now!

The food was to die for. It is no secret why Hannah wants Owen aboard her ship in the first place; he is the best chef on the high seas. The way he describes the dishes he creates for her is so passionate and articulate. He really takes his time preparing these meals and in those moments I almost forgot he was being held captive on board the Flying Rose. Warning: do not read this book when you are hungry!

***A copy of this book was provided to me by the publishers at Farrar, Straus, and Giroux in exchange for my honest review***

1 comment:

  1. What a unique and original telling of what is, in some ways, a very typical swashbuckling adventure. Chef Owen Wedgewood's transformation from an arrogant, obnoxious fellow to a part of the pirate crew in search of the dastardly Brass Fox is a fun, easy read, full of adventure. The hook, however, is the way in which we slowly learn about the pirate crew along with Wedgewood. So much of interest here- social and political dynamics, love, and the art of dining on a pirate ship! Recommended to anyone who is intrigued by the cover and the concept, and anyone who enjoys a character-driven story.

    Irene (Pay Dirt)