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Bloody Jack (novel)

Bloody Jack
Author L.A. Meyer
Cover artist Cliff Nielsen
Country United States
Language English
Series Bloody Jack Adventure series
Genre Young adult, historical novel
Publisher Harcourt Children's Books
Publication date
September 1, 2002
Media type Print (hardback and paperback), audiobook
Pages 336
OCLC 48951422
LC Class PZ7.M9795 Bl 2002
Followed by Curse of the Blue Tattoo

Bloody Jack, fully titled Bloody Jack: Being An Account of the Curious Adventures of Mary “Jacky” Faber, Ship’s Boy is a historical novel by L.A. Meyer. It is centered on an orphaned girl in London in the early 19th century. The story is continued in Curse of the Blue Tattoo, Under the Jolly Roger, In the Belly of the Bloodhound, Mississippi Jack, My Bonny Light Horseman, Rapture of the Deep, The Wake of the Lorelei Lee, The Mark of the Golden Dragon, Viva Jacquelina!, Boston Jacky, and Wild Rover No More.

Plot introduction

After describing the death of the protagonist's family and her entrance into a gang, the action begins with the main character, Mary Faber, struggling to survive on the streets of London with the other orphaned children. Their leader is a clever adolescent named Rooster Charlie whom Mary learns to love as a brother, and as a leader. The gang's life is rough as they try to survive each day on the streets of 18th-century London. When Charlie is murdered, Mary takes Charlie's clothes and changes her name to "Jack" to hide her identity as a girl. She quickly finds a position as a ship's boy on the HMS Dolphin.

She is renamed 'Bloody Jack' after the crew of HMS Dolphin board a ship and she, still only about thirteen years old, uses a plundered pistol to kill a pirate who is about to stab one of her fellow shipmates, Jaimy, who is paralyzed with fright. She comes back to the Dolphin covered in blood, and her proud shipmates nickname the little "boy", Bloody Jack.

Plot summary

Mary Faber is an orphan in a gang on the streets of Cheapside, London, during the late 18th century. After the death of the gang's leader, she disguises herself as a boy and goes to the docks, where she attempts to obtain a position as one of six ship's boys on the British warship H.M.S. Dolphin. Her endeavor is successful due to her ability to read, and she is signed under the alias Jack "Jacky" Faber. After boarding the ship, she meets the other ship's boys, named Tink, Willy, Benjy, Davy, and Jaimy.

Jacky and the other ship's boys gain their sea legs and begin their duties on the ship. Jacky meets a seaman, Liam Delaney, who becomes her sea dad. Liam teaches her the ways of the ship and how to play the pennywhistle. After some time on the ship, Jacky finds that she has grown out of her clothing, and because she needed new clothing, she proceeds to make her own. Jacky's new outfit catches the Captain's eye and is asked to sew up more for the others. As the plot develops, a pirate ship is spotted and a battle begins. The crew boards the enemy ship, and Jacky acquires a pistol from a dead pirate. She sees another pirate preparing to kill one of the ships boys, Jaimy, whom Jacky is starting to have feelings for. She then shoots the pirate, who is carrying a chest of money, and thus gets the nickname "Bloody Jack". It is in this battle that Benjy, a ship's boy in The Brotherhood, (what Jacky and the other ship's boys call themselves), is killed. The ship heads for Palma to get their ship repaired after the battle. At about this time, Jacky first menstruates, and her upbringing having left her unaware of the details of the physical maturation she will experience, she believes that she is ill and about to die.

After the ship lands at Palma, the ship's boys go to get a tattoo to show their brotherhood. Jacky then goes to a brothel to find a woman to ask 'for a friend' why she had bled before, where the madam quickly sees through her disguise and informs Jacky of the details of the female body. The rest of the ship's boys consider Jack a rake after this, as they only know one nominal reason for a visit to a brothel.

Then the ship heads for the Caribbean Sea. While Jacky is in the schoolroom, a sailor aboard the ship named Midshipman Bliffil starts to beat Jacky up, and only stops when the teacher yells at him. Jacky is put in the sick ward for her injuries. She convinces Midshipman Jenkins to stand up to Bliffil and teaches him some fighting moves. A crew member Bill Sloat threatens Jacky and her sea dad, Liam Delaney, tries to protect her, which causes some problems. When Bliffil attacks Jacky again, Jenkins stands up to him. Jacky begins to sleep in the rope locker because The Brotherhood's friendship is strained after recent events, and this is when Sloat tries to sexually assault her. Jacky tries to protect herself by stabbing him with her shiv, but she injures him more than she had meant to, and ends up stabbing him in the stomach and he stumbles overboard. Liam is put on trial for the murder and he is going to be hanged. Jacky intervenes and confesses to stabbing Sloat. She is put in confinement and thinks that she will be hanged instead, but she is set free because she had acted in self-defense.

After that she is welcomed back into the Brotherhood but the feeling is still weird. Jaimy admits to her that he has strange feelings for her, and that is when Jacky asks him to hold up a dress so she can mark it, and Jaimy learns that she is really a girl and that she has feelings for him.

Soon after they arrive in Kingston, Jamaica. Jacky and Jaimy go out on the streets, and Jacky wears a dress that she bought. They eat at a tavern, and Davy and Tink see them as they embrace on one of the streets. Davy and Tink do not know that the girl Jaimy is with is Jacky, and she leaves and changes back into her ship's boy clothing. The group then finds a piercing shop, where they all get a gold hoop earring. Jacky and Jaimy exchange rings as a symbol of their engagement. They then set sail again to hunt for the pirates.

They soon encounter the pirate LeFievre ("The Fever") at sea. There is a battle, but LeFievre gets away. The Dolphin is severely damaged and in the process of sinking. Men are at the bilge pumps trying to keep the ship afloat when land is sighted, and the ship and crew stop for rest and repairs. Davy learns of Jacky's true identity when he discovers her and Jaimy curled up in a hammock together. Soon after, Mr.Tilden, the teacher, wants to put Jacky on a kite and fly her up so she can see more land, but the winds were blowing so hard that the tree she is tied to is ripped out of the ground and after many hours of flying she lands on an unknown island. She stays there for a few days and uses smoke signals to try to get the attention of the HMS Dolphin. A boat crew from the Dolphin comes to rescue her and she finds out that LeFievre and his pirates are on the island with her and waiting to ambush the rescue crew. She tries to lead the rescue crew away but the pirates catch her and hold her hostage for money and threaten to hang her. She is eventually hanged, but is so scrawny and skinny that she just hangs there choking. The HMS Dolphin rescue crew lands, Jaimy quickly cuts the rope around her neck, and Jacky survives.

Jacky is finally discovered to be a girl. She is guarded by someone everywhere she goes. She is confined from almost everyone on board, including her old mates, but they secretly sneak over to the grating above her room to talk to her. She is told by the captain that she will be enrolled in Lawson Peabody's School for Girls in Boston, and then the book concludes with her stepping off the ship.


  • Mary 'Jacky' Faber: The protagonist of the series, she came from a middle-class London family who all died of a plague when she was about seven or eight years old. Suddenly living as a street orphan, she joins a gang led by a slightly older orphan, Rooster Charlie. After Charlie is killed, she enlists with the crew of the H.M.S. Dolphin as a ship's boy.
  • Rooster Charlie: He is called Rooster Charlie because of his red hair and how it falls to the side. Though he is not much older than twelve to fourteen years of age himself, he is the leader of a small gang, and is killed for a grudge by a sordid adult. He was Jacky's closest friend. When she finds his murdered body, Jacky takes his knife and his clothes and uses them to begin her life as a boy. Aboard ship, she carves the shiv handle into the likeness of a rooster to honor Charlie.
  • James 'Jaimy' Emerson Fletcher: A fellow ship's boy on the H.M.S. Dolphin. He comes from a family that is not poor, but not wealthy enough to buy him a commission as a midshipman. His father enlists him as a ship's boy on the H.M.S. Dolphin. After Jacky secretly reveals her gender to him, Jaimy and Jacky pledge themselves to one another using gold rings that are put through their ears.
  • Liam Delaney: An Irishman and skilled sailor, he is Jacky's overseer and "sea dad" who gives her tips and rescues her from ill-intentioned men on board. He does not discover her true gender until it is publicly announced.
  • Muck: A corpse seller. He took the corpses of Jacky's family away when they died, murders her best friend, Rooster Charlie, and sells that corpse as well.
  • Davy, Willy, Benjy and Tink: Jacky and Jaimy's fellow ship's boys, with whom they form a blood brotherhood. By the end of the book, they have been separated by rank, and in one case, by death, but the bond the survivors had sworn on as shipboard novices remains strong.

Release details

External links

  • The author's website
  • Publisher's site
  • Review by Tom Knapp
  • Audiobook Publishers Website
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