CUTLASS: Pirate Sails & Fan-worthy Tales

Everyone sufficiently recovered from A-to-Z? Good, because I've got a fun read for you guys today with Ashley Nixon's CUTLASS. Those of you who don't know Ashley, check out her blog. She's got funny, heartwarming posts about writing and life.

Notorious pirate Barren Reed has one thing on his mind: Revenge against the man who killed his father. So kidnapping his enemy’s fiancée seems a perfect plan…until he actually does it.

Larkin Lee is more than a pretty face and fiancée to a powerful man. Her fierce personality is enough to make any pirate want to push her overboard.

But when the King of the Orient comes to Barren with a task—to find the Bloodstone, a powerful gem thought only to exist in legend, Barren sees another opportunity to destroy his enemy. Together, Barren, Larkin and a crew of pirates set off to find the stone, only to discover it caused the death of Barren’s own mother and Larkin’s, too. As his  strongest allies turn into his greatest enemies, and the life of the girl he kidnapped becomes more important than he ever dreamed, Barren’s quest for revenge becomes a fight to save the Orient.

My Thoughts:
When Ashley Nixon first began talking about her debut novel, CUTLASS, I knew it’d be right up my alley. Tall ships! Pirates! Swords! Magic! I’d have been excited about any one of those elements—put them all together and that book’s definitely finding a place on my shelf.

CUTLASS didn’t disappoint. It’s a rollicking, adventurous tale, centered around young pirate extraordinaire Barren Reed and his kidnappee (aka daughter of an important lord, aka his brother’s fiancée, aka his eventual love interest-of course!) Larkin Lee. I liked the dynamic between Barren and Larkin a lot. It’s sweet, yet challenging. I always enjoy reading about couples who push each other, who become better together than they are apart. You can see the beginnings of that type of relationship in CUTLASS. Barren and Larkin are both outspoken, which also led to fun snarky exchanges like this one:

          Barren: “And how can I trust that you won’t tell the entire population who I am?”

          Larkin raised a brow and smirked. “You gave me a sword,” she said.

Gotta love a lady with a sword!

Nixon also builds a colorful and believable cast of secondary characters, including my favorite, Leaf. His background as an Elfin-lord-turned-pirate was interesting in itself, but what I liked most was how he acted as Barren’s conscience and moral compass through much of the book. The two of them have a deep rock-solid friendship, even though they’re very different.

The world of CUTLASS is well-developed and, though I wished we could spend a little more time in each location, Nixon does a nice job describing the various ports. I am a sucker for tall ships (they’re the main setting in my first book), so I really loved passages like this:

Barren stood on the dock, staring at the ship. It was a beautiful creation—intricate in its woodwork with detailed spirals carved along the rail, awash in gold. The cabin and main hold were all lined in ebony wood, which caused the white sails to stand out like stars against the night. In contrast to the black, the hull of the ship was a rich rosewood. It was unbelievably fancy, and Barren almost mourned what would become of it on this journey.

Makes you want to be out on the open deck with the spray in your face, right?!

I found the plot enjoyable too, with a couple key twists to keep readers guessing. It was neat to see how Nixon wove magic into the pirate world, and I really liked the history behind that pivotal part of the story. Overall, there were places I wanted the book to delve a little deeper, but I’m excited to see where this story and this author take us next! 


Ashley was born and raised in Oklahoma, where the wind really does sweep down the plains, and horses and carriages aren’t used as much as she’d like. When she’s not writing, she’s hard at work on her Master’s degree in Library Science and Information Technology, working out, or pretending she’s Sherlock Holmes. Her obsession with writing began after reading the Lord of the Rings in the eighth grade. Since then, she’s loved everything Fantasy–resulting in an unhealthy obsession with the ‘geek’ tab on Pinterest, where all things awesome go.

Catch up with Ashley:


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  1. So glad you liked it. Sounds like something I might like too.

  2. YAY! Thank you so much for your review, Nicole! I enjoyed it so much! I'm so happy you joined the tour!

  3. This sounds like so much fun and I've never read a book with pirates before! Sounds like it was very well crafted with great characters and a well detailed world! Wonderful review, Nicole!

  4. This sounds right up my alley too. ^_^

  5. Natalie - It was a fun read!

    Ashley - Thanks for having me! Glad to do it.

    Giselle - I'm a definite sucker for pirate books. ;)

    Misha - Yay! I'm glad.