The Very Nearly Honorable League of Pirates #1: Magic Marks the Spot

Magic Marks the Spot - Caroline Carlson

Magic Marks the Spot by Caroline Carlson was guaranteed to grab my attention. The cover is adorable and completely accurate, the MC is a young girl who wants to be a pirate, there are lots of interior illustrations and newspaper articles, and there is a talking gargoyle. How could I possibly go wrong?? I can’t, that’s right! Magic Marks the Spot cheered me up every time I read “just a bit” when I was otherwise in a bit of a funk (blame school!). I highly recommend it if MG pirate stories are your thing ;-).

Note: I borrowed an ARC of Magic Marks the Spot from a friend. Some things may have changed in the final version.


Magic Marks the Spot by Caroline Carlson (The Very Nearly Honorable League of Pirates #1)
Published by HarperCollins on September 10th, 2013
Genres: FantasyMG 
Length: 368 pages
How I got my copy: Borrowed
IndieBound - Book Depository - Goodreads
Purchases made support this blog 

Hilary Westfield has always dreamed of being a pirate. She can tread water for thirty-seven minutes. She can tie a knot faster than a fleet of sailors, and she already owns a rather pointy sword.

There's only one problem: The Very Nearly Honorable League of Pirates refuses to let any girl join their ranks of scourges and scallywags.

But Hilary is not the kind of girl to take no for answer. To escape a life of petticoats and politeness at her stuffy finishing school, Hilary sets out in search of her own seaworthy adventure, where she gets swept up in a madcap quest involving a map without an X, a magical treasure that likely doesn't exist, a talking gargoyle, a crew of misfit scallywags, and the most treacherous—and unexpected—villain on the High Seas. --Goodreads 



  • Magic Marks the Spot is full of tongue-in-cheek middle grade humor. The pirates have to submit a form when they leave the harbor where they check the box for piracy. There is a league that calls itself “The Very Nearly Honorable League of Pirates” and they are actually just what they sound like. Much more emphasis is put on what a child might think pirates are like than what they probably actually are ;-).
  • I always appreciate a tomboy MC, but Magic Marks the Spot goes further by providing a variety of female characters. There is the governess who very much believes in propriety (and wants to open a bookstore :D), but is still up for adventure. There is the rough and tumble Hilary who wants nothing more than to be a pirate. And there is Hilary’s friend, Claire, from finishing school who really does want to be a proper lady, but is still quite delighted to befriend a tomboy because she’s a nice person. It’s important to me that girls reading novels see that whoever they want to be is okay, they don’t have to be a tomboy if they really don’t want to be. *gets off soap box* >.>
  • There is a plot twist, and I didn’t see it coming, though it is fairly cute in nature. MG is always a coin flip on how well-developed the plot will be, but I found Magic Marks the Spot cute and enjoyable.
  • I cannot get over how much I love the chapter illustrations (cute gargoyles :D) and the letters and newspapers. It was quite a lot of fun to read the gossip column between chapters ;-).


  •  While the letters are really run to read and tell more of the plot nicely, the font in the ARC was fairly hard to read at times. It’s very curly to look like handwriting. Hopefully it’s a little easier in the final version! It kept interrupting my speed-reading techniques, haha.
  • Middle-grade stories obviously need to be light on the peril and blood, but Magic Marks the Spot quickly convinced me that there was absolutely no real danger to anyone (even the bad guys), so the pirate battles edged into the silly category. I would have liked at least a little tension!


Magic Marks the Spot is the beginning of a very entertaining series if the world is just. I had so much fun reading Hilary’s adventure and there is some potential for a pretty cool world and magic system to develop. I hope that every young girl dreams of being a pirate, and I know I certainly did! I would have been more excited to be a pirate if I was sure that it was just like Magic Marks the Spot (no danger of pointy things actually hitting anything!), and a talking gargoyle better be included!