Book Review: Flint and Silver by John Drake

Flint and Silver by John Drake

Flint and Silver by John Drake

How did Long John Silver lose his leg? Where did the parrot come from? And who was the evil Captain Flint? These are questions the reader is left with after reading Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island, and they are questions that are answered in John Drake’s prequel, Flint and Silver. In this book, we first meet Long John Silver as a loyal sailor in His Majesty’s Navy, fighting for his life against a group of pirates. His skills impress the pirate captain, who brings him on as a “gentleman o’ fortune” in his crew. Silver quickly becomes a captain in his own right, and half the stage is set.

We then meet Lieutenant Joseph Flint aboard the HMS Elizabeth. Flint is about to receive a promotion of his own, though he secures his command in a far more ruthless manner than Silver. From the beginning we see Flint as a creature of inherent evil; he rules by fear where he could easily rule by respect, and prefers it that way. Flint never considers his men, or anyone else’s men — Flint is focused on himself at all times, and usually assumes that others are the same way. Flint fights and schemes his way to command, and the other half of the stage is set.

Throughout the book, there is a clear contrast between Flint and Silver, even though at their first meeting they are fast friends. Drake sets this up from the beginning, I think, by showing the reasons each has turned to privateering. Silver becomes a “gentleman o’ fortune” essentially to save his own life, while Flint is consumed by an overwhelming lust for power and riches. Even though there are marked similarities between the two men, and it seems as if Silver may actually have a redeeming effect on Flint, ultimately these men are opposites, and there can be nothing but conflict between them.

Flint and Silver is a fun book to read, with one unfortunate problem. At the beginning of the book, in an effort to provide backstory while advancing the novel’s plot, Drake hops back and forth in time. We start off in 1745, then on to 1749. In chapter three, we’re back with Silver in 1745; chapter 4 is back with Flint in 1749. This didn’t bother me until Flint and Silver met; chapter 5 takes place on “Flint’s Island” in 1752, 6 is back in 1749, and tells the story of what lead up to chapter 5. Chapter 7 is back in 1752, this time with Silver and Flint together; chapter 8 goes back again to 1749 and tells the events that led up to chapter 7. We then head to 1751 to tell another character’s story. Then we go back to 1749 again, for no discernible reason. This made the story tough to read, and I almost gave it up after chapter 12, which takes place in 1750 and tells half the story of how Flint and Silver actually met. And chapter 13 takes place up in 1752 again, leaving us hanging in the middle of that story, not to pick it up again until chapter 15. I could go on, but you get the idea. Among all this time traveling is the short narrative of some survivors of Flint’s treachery aboard the Elizabeth, which seems very out of place, and will probably make little sense to anyone who hasn’t read Treasure Island.

Prequels are tough to write. Prequels of other people’s work are even tougher; prequels of someone else’s work that has become a classic work of fiction is nigh on to impossible, and Drake is a brave soul to have attempted it. Leaving aside the time traveling confusion that I’ve already mentioned, Flint and Silver is a fun book, and once we settled down chronologically I had a really hard time putting the book down. This would be a great addition to anyone’s beach reading list.


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