Pirates of Darksea

Pirates of Darksea

By Author / Illustrator

Catherine Doyle



Age range(s)



Bloomsbury Children's Books




Paperback / softback




From the award-winning author of The Storm Keeper's Island, set sail on Catherine Doyle's latest perilous adventure to the magical islands of Darksea.... Deep in the heart of the Atlantic Ocean, where the full moon rests on the horizon, lies a secret kingdom called Darksea. Ruled by the Pirate King, Captain O'Malley, Darksea's tranquil waters have, of late, been haunted by an invisible and deadly monster - a monster that is eating the once-beautiful islands in gigantic bites.

On the other side of the horizon, at his home in Galway, Max Reid and his family are battling a different monster. His big brother Christopher is in hospital and getting sicker - and his parents have begun to talk of miracles. Then one night a loud, bright red parrot taps on Max's bedroom window, carrying an invitation from the pirate king. Captain O'Malley needs a new crew member for a dangerous quest; and the reward is everything Max has been hoping for. But in Darksea, not everyone is as they seem.

When Captain O'Malley's secret threatens to upend their mission and destroy Max's chance to help his family, Max realises he's going to have to navigate much more than he bargained for...

'Utterly brilliant. Sensationally swashbuckling. Completely magical' - A.F Steadman, author of Skandar and the Unicorn Thief.

Find out more from author Catherine Doyle in this short video - or read our Q&A with Catherine!




In Pirates of Darksea, Christopher Reid longs to go on an adventure with Captain Thorne O'Malley aboard his pirate ship, the Stolen Sunrise, in a secret kingdom called Darksea. Followed by his younger brother, Max, he waits on the shore until, realising the Captain isn't coming for him, he throws a letter in a bottle out to sea.

Two years later, Christopher is seriously ill in hospital when a parrot comes looking for him with a letter inviting him to join the crew. Although unsure, Max decides to answer the challenge, hoping for some magic to help his brother. Once on board, he realises that Darksea is being threatened by a terrifying monster intent on destruction and he must face great peril if he is to save his brother.

What an incredible story! Rich in detailed world-building, captivating characters and gripping adventure, the reader is drawn wholeheartedly into this absorbing tale. Max is a wonderful character. Drawn into an adventure which was not his own in an attempt to save his brother, he shows incredible courage and determination in the face of every challenge his adventure in Darksea throws at him. Fear of losing the brother he admires and looks up and the hope of finding a way of saving him drives Max on in his quest, finding inner strength. His friendship with the spirited Ruby, who he meets on the ship, is a real joy and Squawk, the insolent parrot (who is hiding a good heart!) adds plenty of humour!

Pirates of Darksea is beautifully written, full of heart and magic, with so much to recommend it to readers young and old!

320 pages / Reviewed by Sue Wilsher, teacher

Suggested Reading Age 9+


Pirates of Darksea is a high energy, high drama and electrifyingly exciting epic adventure on the high seas. Prepare to get swept away on the Darksea; join Max as he faces deadly monsters from the water's depths and battles his innermost deepest fears, too.

11-year-old schoolboy Christopher Reid dreams about pirates and far away lands after the discovery of a book about a pirate King, Capt O'Malley, his boat the Stolen Sunrise, and a place called Darksea that lies over the horizon. When his message in a bottle to the pirates is dredged from the ocean, however, Christopher lies ill in a hospital bed and it is younger brother Max who steps on board the magical, mysterious ship and sails away on the most important journey of a lifetime - for the promise of magic to save Christopher himself.

From the start, the reader is submerged into a swashbuckling, cinematic story of rough and ready pirates (with hidden good hearts), a witty talking parrot and a fierce, unforgiving pirate queen. With a young pirate named Ruby as his new, loyal and bold partner in piracy, Max embarks on a quest for the O'Malley Curse Cutter sword, in return for priceless stardust to save his beloved brother.

The world that author Catherine Doyle builds above and below the ocean is just incredible. There are darkly dramatic and perilous times ahead but the heart, humour and thrilling excitement of Max's quest leaves the reader eager to read on, not over-burdened by fear. There are truly edge-of-your-seats scenes; the climb down into a scorching, sulphate-bubbling active volcano; a shark-spirited boat that is consuming islands in monstrous bites; and a drowned pirate who has become one with the most feared creature of the sea and is a grotesque transformation to be reckoned with.

'Landlubber' Max stares down the terrors and trials before him with astonishing bravery and fierce conviction. Even when his fears threaten him and his own mind torments him, Max remains steadfast in his search for the stardust he thinks will cure his brother back over the horizon in his own world. The humanity, hope, longing and love cuts through the viciousness of undead pirates, dark myths and strange losses of stardust.  "Your true power is your inner strength," Max is told.

Pirates of Darksea already feels like a cherished classic - in this adult reader it evoked the feelings of the most magical storytelling moments of their younger reading self . It will captivate its young readers and drench them in the most richly imagined, vast seascape of a quest and lift them with its power of positivity . A fabulous fantastical journey.

320 pages / Reviewed by Jennifer Caddick, teacher

Suggested Reading Age 9+


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