L.A. Meyer,
Jacky Faber #9: The Mark of the Golden Dragon
(Harcourt, 2011)

When a wave tosses Jacky Faber overboard, along with her Indian servant, Ravi, she is feared dead by all who know and love her -- including a couple of suitors who get along far too well for a pair of heroic British sailors who covet the same girl. But she, of course, is far too buoyant to perish in the sea, and she washes ashore in Burma to begin yet another adventure.

The Mark of the Golden Dragon sees Jacky -- still with her hair shorn in Chinese fashion after her encounter with the Chinese pirate queen Cheng Shih in the previous volume, The Wake of the Lorelei Lee -- dodging tigers, dealing harshly with brigands, pretending to be a mermaid and cutting deals with wealthy, if shady, merchants that will have far-reaching consequences on an international scale. Her adventures are, as always, for the most part light-hearted and fun.

But there are elements creeping into this long-running series of books that I find distasteful, if not entirely off-putting. For one, young Jacky's use of her sexuality to get men to do her bidding -- or simply to pass the time between adventures -- is growing a little boring. Where she used to use her quick wit, cunning guile and natural talents at sea, she now makes use of a pert bottom and a tendency to bare her midriff and cleavage in mixed company. I mean, really, is that all she has going for her these days? I used to recommend this series for young readers because Jacky was a good role model for girls who enjoyed adventure tales as much as the boys, but now, I'm not sure this is the lesson I want young girls -- certainly not my 14-year-old daughter -- to be learning. And, while Jacky continually protests her love and devotion to a single man, she is more often than not parted from him and, in his absence, she ends up in a great many other men's arms, laps and beds. (She used to protest each time that she was still a virgin; she doesn't seem to make that claim as strenuously as she used to.) Her fickle attitude toward the men circling in and out of her life is, likewise, not the message I wish she would send.

Then there's Jaimy, the young man she (sometimes, sort of) loves with all (or at least some of) her heart. His own fidelity hasn't been entirely without stain over the years, although he's probably jumped in fewer beds than Jacky. Still, in this book he believes her dead ... and so he goes insane, finds a new girlfriend and begins a lone quest to murder the men who caused many of Jacky's woes in the past.

Murder? Really? Sure, they're not good guys, but ... um, Jacky and Jaimy are still the heroes of this book, right?

Also, come on, losing your mind for love shows a distinct lack in the strength of character department. Mourn her, yes, but don't go bonkers and start killing people in her name. Besides, Jaimy, dude, you've thought she was dead before, right? You know she always comes back.

I do love this series, and author L.A. Meyer has a fun way of writing that is a pleasure to read. I can't help but like Jacky, even if she is a frustrating protagonist at times. I'm sure when the next book appears I'll be just as eager to read it ... but I do hope Jacky finds herself a little more grounded next time around. Oh, and she should just dump Jaimy and let them both get on with their lives. Please.

[ visit the author's website ]

book review by
Tom Knapp

7 January 2012

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