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…
Swashbucklers is the latest release by author Dan Hanks (also known for Captain Moxley and the Embers of the Empire). It is billed as a nostalgic 80’s video game action adventure story. If that is purely what you are looking for, I would say this book accomplishes that task.
The best aspect of this book, for me, at least, was the fact that it was nonstop action. There are very few scenes where the characters are sitting and talking and/or relaxing, as the crazy characters and battles just keep rolling. And, obviously, the characters feel it, too. It is well-noted that most of them are in their 40’s and having trouble keeping up with all of the physical activity. They are wore down mentally, as well, as the constancy of their adult lives (work, spouses, children, etc) takes its toll. It was an interesting and fun way to approach a novel such as this.
Oddly enough, though, I had trouble connecting with the characters, and that is a big part of whether or not I enjoyed a book to its fullest. This surprised me, because I could be any one of these characters: 40 years old, married, kids, a job, living in the suburbs, plays video games. I fit into many of these categories, and logically, one would think that would be an advantage to the story; but, I think, in the end, it was a disadvantage. It was too easy for me to disagree with decisions and judgments. Because of that, it was difficult for me to build attachments with the characters and care that much about how things ended up for them.
There is also this idea of the book being a nostalgist throwback to the 80’s. For the characters it certainly was, but that was not the case for me. There were many 80’s pop culture references, but I did not get most of them. I came in expecting something in the vein of Ready Player One, but this book is more Ghostbusters meets Jumanji. Which, as a matter of fact, does not sound all that bad, actually. It is all in the execution, and this one did not hit with me.
In addition to the nonstop action, I did like some of the risks the author took. This book is anything but standard, and I can really appreciate that as a reader. I especially loved the way the book ended, which, in my opinion, definitely falls into the category of “unexpected”. Honestly, if you decide to pick up this book, read it for that reason alone.
All in all, while Swashbucklers did not exactly knock my socks off, it is definitely worth a read. I wish I connected better with it, but if you are looking for something where everything is constantly moving and the story is rather quirky, I would recommend giving it a shot.