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Literature: Bloody Jack

Jacky Faber is a tough, resourceful urchin on the streets of London, capable of really anything you can imagine. Although Jacky's life as a member of Rooster Charlie's Gang is all right considering the circumstances, it's not enough—the sea calls with promises of fortune and high adventure, and Jacky has always wanted to see the Bombay Rat, the Cathay Cat, and the Kangaroo.

There's only one problem: Jacky's a girl.

When an unexpected tragedy forces her to leave her old gang, Mary Faber dons boys' clothes, takes the name "Jack," and joins the Royal Navy as a ship's boy. It's risky, but it certainly beats the bleak prospects of an orphan girl on the streets of London in 1803 . From there, she goes on numerous adventures all over Europe, America, and the open sea, makes unlikely friends, and falls in love... but even when everything seems perfect, trouble always manages to find her.

Bloody Jack is a series of twelve young adult novels by L.A. Meyer. They are as follows:

  • Bloody Jack
  • 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
  • Wild Rover No More

The series is a must-read for anyone who likes historical fiction, adventure, pirates, and genuine plucky heroines. The story is fast-paced and fun to read, but not simplistic in the least—to fully describe the plot would make this page longer than Moment Of Awesome. But feel free to break the cast down by trope with the Character Sheet

This series provides examples of:

  • Accidental Hero: Jacky "leads" a cavalry charge screaming in terror on a runaway horse in My Bonny Light Horseman.
  • Action Girl: Jacky, of course. Also, all of the Lawson Peabody girls become Action Girls out of necessity when they are taken aboard the Bloodhound to be sold into slavery.
  • Adoptive Peer Parent: Jacky takes quite a number of orphans under her wing. However this is only made official in regards to Joannie and Ravi.
  • The Alcoholic: Gully.
  • Alcohol-Induced Idiocy: Jacky in book 2, after which she swears never to touch spirits again
  • Ambiguously Gay:
    • Higgins' sexuality is heavily implied.
    • Mam'selle Claudelle day Bourbon seems to dote mightily on Jacky.
    • The dangerous female pirate Cheng Shih seems to take a shine to Jacky. Jacky is subsequently vague and dreamy about her position as Cheng Shih's "pet."
    • Actors Mr. Fennel and Mr. Bean give this impression in the audiobook as well, though not in the printed novels.
  • Archer Archetype: Silent, independent, stoic Katy Deere seems ready to slip under the plot-radar in In Belly of the Bloodhound. Then she gets a bow in her hands, and we learn very quickly that Katy Deere doesn’t need words to get her point across.
  • Artistic License – Law:
    • When Jacky (clearly a minor) is arrested no attempt is made to contact her guardian.
    • A girl who is considered a minor is able to have a Ward and an adopted son?
    • The court room scenes in general seem to make very little sense.
  • Attempted Rape: Pretty much once a book, at the very least.
  • Author Appeal:
    • History and ships.
    • The author is an artist and owns an art gallery with his wife. Thus, Jacky is a skilled artist and much detail goes into the techniques she uses.
    • The author appears to be interested in period clothing, as he expends much detail on Jackie's various outfits and disguises and each novel gives her at least one extended dressing scene.
    • Folk songs and sea chanteys. Jacky's repertoire is extensive and historically accurate. Jackie herself was inspired by the song "Jackaroe", though in-story it's the other way around.
  • Author Avatar: Jacky is arguably this. Her skills and interests mirror those of the author so much so that Meyer would make posts to the official forum in character, even when talking about real-world issues such as book covers and release dates.
    • Meyer's tendency to make public announcements in-character as Jacky came to a heartbreaking conclusion when Jacky announced Meyer's death to fan's via social media.
  • Badass Bookworm: Amy.
  • The Beard: Jacky and Higgins get married in The Wake Of The Lorelei Lee to keep the rest of the ship from speculating about their relationship (and Higgins' sexuality). Leads to Sexless Marriage and Amicably Divorced.
  • Berserk Button: Jacky flies into a rage when anyone criticizes her mother. The reaction is predictable enough that Clarissa uses it in an attempt to get her expelled from the Lawson Peabody in In the Belly of the Bloodhound, and would have succeeded had it not been for Higgins’s last-second intervention.
  • Beta Couple: Several throughout the series, but among the most notable being Amy and Ezra (though she is not yet ready for that sort of thing), Jim Tanner and Clementine Jukes, and Mairead and Ian. Joanie and Daniel.
  • Boarding School of Horrors: Deconstructed. The Lawson Peabody School For Young Girls is reasonably strict and regimented, but not abusive, and the Headmistress seems to be a bit of a tough-but-fair Mama Bear about her students.
  • Breaking the Fourth Wall:
    • Jacky frequently makes asides justifying her actions to the reader."I wasn't raised proper" being the most frequent, but there are others.
    • In the last book excerpts from Amy's journal are explicitly addressed to "dear reader".
    • In scenes where Jacky is telling someone about her past adventures, she frequently quotes previous books word for word.
  • Brick Joke: "Eat Nettles first."
  • Catch Phrase:
    • Jacky: "I'm a good girl...mostly." and "Men, I swear." and "I wasn't raise proper."
    • Amy: "I'm not ready for that kind of thing."
    • Mike Fink: "I'm a ringtailed roarer!"
  • Chekhov's Gun Ophelia Dress Introduced in book 2 and fired in book 12.
  • Chivalrous Pervert: Randall and Richard Allen.
  • Childhood Marriage Promise: Jacky and Jaimy.
    • Implied for Joanie and Daniel in Rapture of the Deep.
  • Cliff Hanger: So far, all of the books, in one way or another, but most notably Under the Jolly Roger and In the Belly of the Bloodhound.
  • Clothing Damage: Seems to be the main attraction in Jacky's playlet "The Villain Pursues Constant Maiden: Or, Fair Virtue in Peril"Ro
  • Cool Boat: Jackie's beloved flagship, the Nancy B. Alsop. A Baltimore schooner, she's fast enough to outrun a Royal Navy frigate, big enough to cross the Pacific but small enough to be handled by two or three hands in an emergency, and named after her mother.
  • Cowardly Lion: Jacky, and she's not afraid to admit it.
  • Crazy-Prepared: Jacky and the items in her sea bag. She also has her shiv on her at all times, and it miraculously never gets lost.
  • Crouching Scholar Hidden Badass: Higgins is shown repeatedly to be very adept at manipulation and persuasion, on top of being able to crunch numbers, crack complicated military codes, speak multiple languages, solve crime, and run a business. His sheer versatility results in him eventually being scouted by the British government as an intelligence agent. That said, he carries dual-wielding percussion cap pistols and is not above using physical force to protect Jacky when diplomacy fails. Politely, of course.
  • Dies Wide Open: Benjy, though Jacky closes his eyes later.
  • Disguised in Drag: Jacky. All the time. More so in the earlier books, when she had a more boyish figure.
    • Used by the pirates in the beginning of My Bonny Light Horseman.
  • Distracted by the Sexy: Used by Clarissa when the girls escape the Bloodhound. Also used on occasion by Jacky when in Saucy Wench mode.
  • Divided We Fall: In In the Belly of the Bloodhound, Clarissa is far more concerned about calling Jacky out for her perceived bossiness than she is working together with her to try to find a way for them all to escape a life of slavery. The petty schoolgirl rivalry in light of much more serious matters is so out of place that Jacky is more incredulous than angry throughout the confrontation.
  • Double Standard: Jackie is often crashing headlong into it. Sometimes she tries to play it to her advantage.
  • Driven to Suicide: Elspeth, after going catatonic for revealing that Jacky led the girls against their captors in Book 4, which resulted in Jacky getting punished.. And again in Wild Rover No More when Amy tries to commit suicide after Jacky's execution. Fortunately Randell sabotaged her pistol
  • Drunken Master: Played with as Randell is only pretending to be drunk
  • Dude, Where's My Respect?: You'd think that after In the Belly of the Bloodhound, Jacky would have friends in high places, but it doesn't seem to be the case.
  • Eating Lunch Alone: Amy Trevelyne starts out this way in Curse of the Blue Tattoo, though she tells Jacky that the exile is self-imposed.
  • Fake-Out Make-Out: Clarissa and Jacky on the Bloodhound, which adds to the general feeling of...
  • Faking the Dead: Happens to Jacky twice.
  • Famed in Story: Jacky explicitly wants to be this, although it comes around to bite her when she learns her friend Amy has been publishing Jacky's life story and adventures in volumes, often leading to Jacky's enemies being all-too-informed of her exploits.
  • Frying Pan of Doom: Jemimah uses what is apparently the world's biggest frying pan to brain El Feo.
  • Genki Girl: Jacky. Amy expresses her dismay at Jacky's tireless enthusiasm more than once.
  • Get It Over With: Jacky says words to this effect many times when threatened with execution.
  • Generation Xerox: Jacky looks exactly like her mother. Her adopted urchin Joannie is very much a slightly younger version of Jacky.
  • Good Scars, Evil Scars: Jacky ends up with two—one on her eyebrow and one on the outer edge of her opposite eye.
  • Green-Eyed Monster: Jaimy frequently describes himself with variations of this. While he recognizes that it’s unfounded for the most part, his hair-trigger temper and jealousy have led to several incidents throughout the series including but not limited to nearly drowning Robin Raeburne out of spite in Under the Jolly Roger, racing off in a huff before Jacky can explain her tryst with Richard Allen in Mississippi Jack, and – most recently – breaking up with her entirely when he discovers the nude portrait Amadeo Romero had done of her during her adventures in Spain.
  • Groin Attack: Marshall Hilaire de Groote's wife shoots him in the crotch when she catches him with Jacky (who was pretending to be a prostitute at the time).
  • Handsome Lech: Randall Trevelyne, Joseph Jared, etc...
  • Have a Gay Old Time:
    • Jacky's fellow ship's boys temporarily kick her out of their group because "they think [she's] queer," a line that, under the circumstances, could be (and is) interpreted all kinds of ways.
    • The ship boys refer to Jacky as a "bleedin' fairy," a thought to which Jacky concurs ("That I am, a right wee elf") although it's entirely possible Jacky doesn't fully understand the implications.
  • Hello, Sailor!: Although, characters like this are almost always portrayed as Depraved Homosexuals.
  • Hidden Depths: Clarissa in the fourth book
  • Historical-Domain Character: Enough to populate a wiki of their own, including Napoleon, Tecumseh and Sacajawea, the LaFitte brothers, Lord Dundas, the Duke of Clarence, and Cheng Shih. Many other contemporary figures such as Marshal Ney, John Adams, Cotton Mathers, Lord Nelson and the romantic poets are discussed or make cameo appearances without rising to the level of true characters.
    • A number of the convicts on the Lorelei Lee are Historical characters, including Mary Wade. The Lorelei Lee itself is somewhat based on the Lady Juliana.
  • Historical In-Joke: Oodles and boodles worth
  • Honey Trap: Jacky is forced to be one of these by the British government as an alternative to being hanged for piracy. She keeps a stash of opium on hand to avoid being deflowered. It is specifically referred to by this name in the book.
  • Honor Among Thieves:
    • Despite the backstabbing, violence, and constant turf wars in Cheapside, it’s tacitly agreed among the urchins that involving the police in any way breaks the code of the streets.
    • Rooster Charlie was known for being scrupulously fair, dividing spoils evenly and refusing to eat until all the members of the gang were present.
    • Subverted with Gully, who starts off professing to be an honorable con-artist and ends up nearly causing serious harm to Jacky whenever they cross paths.
  • Hooker with a Heart of Gold: Mam'selle Claudelle day Bourbon, of the New Orleans day Bourbons
  • Huge Guy, Tiny Girl: Jacky is a little less than five feet as of The Wake Of The Lorelei Lee, and her constant companion Higgins is only described as "large."
  • Idiot Ball: In Boston Jacky, both Jacky and Jamie seem to suffer from this. In Wild Rover No More, when Jacky thinks it's a good idea to send letters to her friends and tell them where she is when she is supposed to on the run from her own execution, this really approaches Too Dumb to Live territory.
  • Improbable Age: In later books Jacky behaves and is treated like someone far older then she actually is.
  • Innocent Fanservice Girl: Jacky. By the final book, Literal Fanservice.
  • I Should Write a Book About This: When Jacky tells Amy her story, the opening lines sound exactly like those of the first book. Later on, we find out that Amy has published Jacky's adventures—implied to be the very books we are reading.
  • Iron Lady: Mistress Pimm.
  • Large Ham: Jacky, Mike Fink, Captain Laughton. Jacky herself seems to write these roles...
  • Lonely Rich Kid: In Bloody Jack, Jaimy is initially treated with suspicion by the other ship’s boys as he is the only one of them not fresh off the streets – namely, is from a wealthy family, is well-dressed, well-fed, and has his own mess kit. While that doesn’t last long, the isolation brought on by his financial privileges is a theme referenced frequently throughout the series, leading him to still doubt the tales that Jacky has told him about her former life.
  • Mama's Baby, Papa's Maybe: Almost in Under The Jolly Roger.
  • Married at Sea: Most of the crew and passengers of the Lorelei Lee, including Jacky and Higgins, temporarily.
  • Mistaken for Gay: Jacky and the female crew of the Belle of the Golden West in Mississippi Jack.
  • Mushroom Samba: Ensues in Viva Jacquelina after Jacky, alone and starving in the Spanish countryside, eats a strange orange fungus, and culminates in a long conversation with a bullfrog.
  • My Name Is Inigo Montoya: "'Tis me, Arthur Mc Bride, who's killing you. I want you to know on your way to hell that it was me who sent you there, you worthless piece of British crap."
  • Napoleon Bonaparte: Appears as a character and an important part of the plot in My Bonny Light Horseman.
  • Never Say Never: Any time Jacky says she will not do something near the start of a book you can be sure it will happen before the end of the book.
  • No One Could Survive That: Jacky, nearly once per book.
  • Not Quite Dead: In Book 6, Jacky's friends watch her get dragged out from their prison cell and guillotined—only it turns out they decapitated a girl who looked like her, instead. They don't find out till much later, though...
  • Official Couples: Jacky and Jaimy, despite his and her recurring slip-ups; Davy and Annie; Amy and Ezra; Mairead and Ian; and Katy and Lightfoot among others.
  • Off with His Head!: Not surprising as the story is set not long after the French Revolution.
  • Outdoor Bath Peeping: Richard Allen cheerfully spies on a naked Jacky in Mississippi Jack when she’s out enjoying a swim with the girls of the Shawnee tribe. He has exactly zero shame in being discovered.
  • Out with a Bang: Pushed to the edge by illness, the threat of imminent mutiny, and cannonballs crashing overhead, Captain Scroggs has a heart attack and dies before he's able to go through with his plan to rape Jacky.
  • Panty Shot: Jacky and Poseidon seem to have a... special relationship, much to her embarrassment, as an inevitable result of wearing a skirt on a windy deck.
    • Happens in Bloody Jack as Jacky, in a rare moment as a girl, gets her skirts blown up by an errant breeze in full sight of her fellow ship's boys. The narrative is rather vague on whether or not Jacky was wearing drawers at the time.
  • Peaceful in Death: Hughie.
  • Pirates: The Dolphin, Jacky's first assignment, is a pirate hunter. Later, Jacky becomes a privateer but is made a wanted criminal because her Letter of Marque was canceled.:
  • Pirate Girl
  • Plucky Middie: Jacky epitomizes this trope, even when she doesn't actually hold the rank.
  • Privateer: The Emerald, during the majority of Under the Jolly Roger.
  • Public Domain Character: Freely mixed with the historical characters, most notably Mike Fink and the crew of the ''Pequod.''
  • Puritan School Girls Rule: Jackie eventually learns to use "the look" of a Lawson Peabody girl to her advantage.
  • Rape as Backstory: Katy Deere.
  • Reports of My Death Were Greatly Exaggerated: Jacky ties to use her fame in The Mark of the Golden Dragon, but the English sailors she talks to don't believe she is really Jacky Faber.
  • Renamed the Same: When Jackie ends up working as spy undercover in a ballet in France and picks out a new name so the French don't figure out the legendary lady pirate Jackie Faber is within their boarders, she decides to go with Jacqueline... and her fellow dancers quickly shorten it to Jackie.
  • Rich Bitch: Clarissa
  • Sailor's Ponytail: Jacky initially cuts all of her hair off to pull off the Sweet Polly Oliver that gets the plot rolling, but is told by her captain to grow out her pigtail so that she will match the other ship's boys. Jacky complies, but frets that her long hair will make her look more girlish and thus betray her.
  • Scooby-Doo Hoax: Jacky convinces the crew of the Bloodhound that the ship is haunted. She also uses a more serious version of this routine in Curse of the Blue Tattoo in order to drive Sinister Minister/ Reverend Mathers to admit to murder.
  • Shout-Out:
  • Show Within a Show:
    • Jacky frequently retells events from previous books to entertain others.
    • She also writes a play in Mississippi Jack
    • Brother Rabbit tales in The Rapture of the Deep
  • Sinister Minister: Reverend Mather
  • Soap Opera Rapid Aging Syndrome: Subverted and Played Stright to make Joannie and Daniel a couple:
    • Joannie is said to be about twelve at the start of Under the Jolly Rodger, and is still about twelve 2 years later in Rapture of The Deep.
    • Daniel is eight or nine in Mississippi Jack and about twelve in Rapture of The Deep, even thought less then six months have passed.
  • Someday This Will Come in Handy: Occurs frequently in every book, often functioning as the root of Jacky’s Crazy Preparedness. Jacky is particularly fond of mentioning lessons learned during her time in the Blackfriars Bridge gang, from the very useful (knowing how to cross the city unseen via the rooftops) to the seemingly pointless (knowing how to make baby footprints with the side of her fist).
  • Star-Crossed Lovers: …How many times now have Jacky and Jaimy come within hours of getting married, only to have their doorway to wedded bliss shut in their face, usually by Her Majesty's soldiers?
  • Street Urchin: Jacky. A healthy number of side characters start out this way as well - Jim Tanner, Ravi, all but one of the ship's boys on the Dolphin, and Joannie, who is said to be very similar to Jacky in her Cheapside days.
  • Survival Mantra: Ravi's "Happy puppy, happy puppy, happy puppy..."
  • Sweet Polly Oliver: How Jacky starts her adventures on the high seas.
  • Sweet on Polly Oliver: Jaimy finds himself "unnaturally attracted" to one of his fellow ship's boys and is on the verge of leaving the Navy until said ship's boy reveals herself to be a girl.
  • Take Back Your Gift: In her typical dramatic fashion, Jacky hurls her promise ring at Jaimy’s feet at the beginning of Under the Jolly Roger when she discovers that he is cheating on her. As it turns out, the girl is only his cousin, and all of the grief Jacky goes through over the next several months as a result of the incident could have been avoided if she’d just stopped to ask.
  • A Taste of the Lash: Jacky's (second) worst nightmare as a ship's boy in Bloody Jack, as stripping for a lashing will reveal her true gender. Both Jacky and Clarissa get lashes in Book 4 and Jaimy takes his licks in book 8.
  • The Social Expert: Jackie gradually becomes an expert at identifying key people and winning their sympathy. Put her aboard any ship, even in chains, and she'll soon have the whole lower decks rooting for her. She also learns when to play the Double Standard to her advantage.
  • Title Drop: Amped up to eleven in In the Belly of the Bloodhound. Made even more noticeable in the audiobook version, whether by design or accident, as Kellgren tends to slow down and give it weight whenever she runs across it.
  • Too Dumb to Live: Jacky in the last book. Not leaving the US while on the run from the US Government, and sending mail to her known associates telling them exactly where she is.
  • Took a Level in Badass:
    • Jacky. Definitely Jacky.
    • All of the girls of the Lawson Peabody in In the Belly of the Bloodhound, and in particular The Dianas, who took a blood oath to fight to the death rather than allow themselves to be sold into slavery.
  • Uncle Tomfoolery: "Jerome", until he turns out to be a slaver. His antics were to fool the girls into thinking he was harmless.
  • Unwanted Harem: There are a lot of guys (and two women) romantically interested in Jacky (not even counting the creepers), but she only wants Jaimy. She refers to her other suitors as "friends."
  • Virgin Power: Despite it all, Jackie has managed to retain her virginity, which proves an effective defense against those who try to cast aspersions against her character, particularly Flashby.
  • Virgin Tension: Nearly every book points out that Jacky still has her virginity—by having some attempt at taking it made. In the earlier books, this was usually Attempted Rape, but it can also be one of her many suitors (or even Jaimy) getting a little too frisky.
  • Waif-Fu: Subverted. Jacky is regularly overpowered by men who are just physically strong. And never does well in sword fight, despite training and practice.
  • War Is Glorious: Randall seems to think so, until he finally experiences it.
  • War Is Hell: Jackie rarely escapes unscathed and always loses at least one person she cares about in every battle.
  • Weddings for Everyone: The younger characters in the book pair up constantly, and there are many weddings throughout. The penultimate chapter in the last book hints at a triple wedding: Jacky & Jamie, Amy & Ezra, Randell & Polly
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: In the last few books Jacky's dependents don't even get a mention:
    • The last mention of Daniel Prescott is in 'Viva Jacquelina.''
    • Neither Ravi nor Joannie appear in Wild Rover No More.
  • Wide-Eyed Idealist: Elspeth until her naivete results in her betraying Jacky and subsequently getting ostracized by the rest of the girls.
  • Won the War, Lost the Peace: Higgins used this to explain to Jacky why Singapore changed hands so many times, as opposed to anyone actually governing it for an extended period.
  • Wooden Ships and Iron Men: And one girl of pure brass!
  • Ye Olde Butcherede Englishe: Luckily, that character disappeared quickly.
  • Yo Yo Plot Point: Jackie's run-ins with the law, assaults on her virtue, and the Will They or Won't They? between her and Jaimy are re-hashed virtually every book.