“The Secrets of the Kraken” by Grant Cravens

Full Disclosure: Grant is a friend of mine, and this was written following my second read-through of his novel- the first having been before revision and the second having been after.

Buy, Borrow, or Skip?

SotK is available on all major eBook platforms, and in paperback on Amazon (or in person, if you show up at a convention he’s selling at.)

Spoiler-free Synopsis

Captain Cait Molyneux has spent the last several years slowly recovering from a mutiny that left her with a bare-bones crew and never quite enough money to keep her ship sailing…. Until a weird, well-paying delivery comes her way, promising to clear her debt on completion, allowing her to climb back up onto her own two feet.

Unfortunately, anything worth that much can’t make it clear across the ocean without drawing some unwanted attention, and everything goes downhill from there, dragging Cait farther from her well-bred family and closer to pirates and sailor’s-tales.

Content Warnings

There are pirates, which invariably bring trouble along with them.
Some items touched upon include death, abusive parents (past), (threat of) rape, and emotional abuse/

Recovering from abuse and making a new, better found family are huge themes in this book.

Impressions, Comments, and Personal Beefs:

So, ok. What Grant has made, here, is an extremely millennial story, in pretty much all the best ways. The crew of the Rose is a small, tight-knit found family, headed by Cait Molyneux, a middle child in the massive and powerful Molyneux family. And I love… all of them. I love all of these characters so much, and this is the kind of story where, once you get to know everyone, the only thing that you want is for them to be happy.

There’s a lot of subtle worldbuilding in this book that I love, too- Grant has been careful to establish a more egalitarian baseline. In this world, the default is to assume that any given person may be the right one for the job, and the language reflects that.

I think about a third of the way through my first read I’d noticed, built into the culture, there is a sort of default bisexuality that I found to be refreshing. Anybody might be interested in anyone, and any divergence from that is handled with just a handful of words and then left as is, with no further commentary. It was refreshing as hell, to say the least.

PLUS! There is a small sniff of a love triangle, but it doesn’t consume the book, instead taking a back seat to the larger narrative surrounding the Map That Got Them Into This Mess, and any hurt feelings are handled, like adults, with communication and kindness. Again: refreshing as hell.

Also? Who the fuck doesn’t love a story with submarines? And pirates?

ALSO? Look at all the fucking women in this story. there are so many of them? There are, like, at LEAST 14 and I love all of them, I love all of them SO MUCH.

(Wait no that’s a lie, I hate, I think four of them, but that’s just because they’re little shits >:[ )

There’s plenty of the regular sorts of backstabbing one might expect from a story with pirates, but there’s also clearly this General Culture of “Hey someone’s in trouble, we should go help.” We see this a bunch of times in the book and it’s just, really nice, seeing a bunch of boats from a bunch of different countries going out of their way to check and see if everyone else is alright. And, with a couple of plot-relevant exceptions, there’s also a lot of tolerance for different cultures, which, say it with me: refreshing as hell.

I don’t want to get too super deep into the book because, this is one where a handful of spoilers do need to be kept safe, but I WILL say that, first read, it may be a little slow until the Catalyst Event occurs. Be patient, you’ll know when you get there, and it’s definitely worth the time investment.

I get really worked up about a couple of these characters, too. I’ve mentioned already my stance of just wanting everybody to be happy, but there are a few- particularly Cait and Xiphos and Frankie- for whom that feeling is especially strong. I literally started crying thinking about how much I want Xiphos to be happy the other day, so, like, if that doesn’t tell you everything you need to know, I don’t know what will.

Anyway, please give this book a go!