A Tuesday Ten: Buckle Your Swashes!

Swashbuckling.  I’m sure you’ve heard the term used as a description of a movie or book or character more than once.  According to online sources, to swashbuckle is defined as:” to engage in daring and romantic adventures with ostentatious bravado or flamboyance”.  The term has been in use since the 16th century and it may be derived from a particular fighting style where the fighter held a  buckler (a small round shield) in the off hand.  The sword “swashing” and noisily hitting the buckler may have given rise to this term which has become an archetypal word for things  wild, adventurous and daring.

So can I find us some speculative fiction swashbucklers?  I think I just might . . .


Jack Black and the Ship of Thieves by Carol Hughes (Yearling, c2000)

A wild story of airships and piracy and adventure! Jack’s father invites him on the maiden voyage of the largest airship in the world, but  all is not well.  Jack overhears plans of sabotage aboard ship, but before he can tell his dad, he falls from the ship–only to be caught by the sails of a pirate ship. Now he must persuade the pirates to help him before it’s too late.  Like most swashbuckling tales, what makes this fit is the high adventure told in dramatic fashion.  Fun and danger combined in one nail-biting tale!


The Hero’s Guide to Saving Your Kingdom by Christopher Healy (Walden Pond Press, 2012)

The first book in this madcap series, The League of Princes that takes what we know about some very familiar fairytales and turns it completely on its head.  Our poor Prince Charmings have never gotten very good press in the ballads dedicated to their fairy tales, but this time they hope to change that–and have some proper swashbuckling adventures along the way.  Plenty of swords and monsters, wild chases, daring rescues and much hilarity.  It may not be The Princess Bride, but  Healy provides us an unforgettable advenbure.


Redwall by Brian Jacques (Red Fox, c1986)

If anything exemplifies swashbuckling, it must be this anthropomorphic medieval fantasy series featuring small woodland creatures.   In this first story, young Mathias must solve the riddle of the tapestry of Martin the Warrior, and discover the location of the legendary hero’s sword in order to defeat the enemies that are laying siege to Redwall Abbey.  Every book in the Redwall series is packed with quests, villains, derring do!  Battles, sword fights, and dramatic scenes!


 The Jupiter Pirates: Hunt for the Hydra by Jason Fry (HarperCollins, c2013)

The first book in the new Jupiter Pirates series, it’s piracy, adventure and treasure in space!  Jason Fry combines a piratical sense of adventure on the high seas with a far future space civilization in our solar system.  The Hashoones are a family of pirates turned privateers.  There are plenty of space battles, dangerous exploits and dangerous challenges awaiting the youngest members of the crew of the Shadow Comet!


Moonshadow: Rise of the Ninja by Simon Higgins (Little, Brown Books, c2010)

So I wasn’t entirely sure if ninjas and Japanese adventure stories count as swashbuckling, but I think it might.  Moonshadow’s definitely the swashbuckling type for a ninja, sword to hand and ready for daring exploits.  Moonshadow is sent on a perilous journey to destroy a secret weapon and save his country.  This is one of three books out in the Moonshadow series, chronicling the exploits of this young Japanese ninja.


Peter Pan in Scarlet by Geraldine McCaughrean (Margaret K. McElderry, c2006)

Seriously what is more swashbuckling  for kids that the every youthful and adventurous Peter Pan.  The wild young boy who would rather live in Neverland than grow up and who has marvlous adventures fighting pirates and outwitting enemies.  I chose to include Geraldine McCaughrean’s officially sanctioned swashbuckling sequel on the list, but just about anything featuring Peter Pan fits this list just fine.  In fact, if you want to explain the idea of swashbuckling to your younger  readers, he’s probably the easiest character to point to as an example!


The Blue Sword by Robin McKinley (Ace, c1982)

 I realized in creating this list that we generally regard swashbucklers as being of the male persuasion.  But I wanted to include some female protagonists on this list, and I think this book qualifies as a “swashbuckling” style of adventure.  Great battles, wild exploits, a magical sword and a romantic, sweeping epic spirit to the story that had me wishing to be Harry on her warstead!  Great fun!



Spacebread by Steven Senn (Atheneum, c1981)

And how could I not include the swashbuckling space cat of the stars, Spacebread herself?  This anthropomorphic white cat is well known for her adventurous ways–this time her travels will take her to the planet Ralph to retrieve her stolen belt buckle.  But dangerous plots are afoot planetside, and Spacebread is about to find herself tangled up in the fight to save the planet from a nefarious tyrant.


Mistmantle Chronicles: Urchin of the Riding Stars by M. I. McAllister (Miramax Books, c2006)

On more anthropomorphic series for our swashbuckling list!  This time we have sword wielding squirrels to contend with!  In this first book of The Mistmantle Chronicles, Urchin is a young squirrel page whose dream is to be a warrior like Captain Crispin .  But when the king’s son turns up dead and  Crispin is blamed for the crime, Urchin must find a way to clear his hero’s name and find the true culprit.


The Mousehunter  by Alex Milway (Little, Brown Books, c2007)

The entire Mousehunter trilogy is an excercise in swashbuckling adventure on the high seas!  With the strangest mice you’ve ever heard of and a plucky young girl named Emiline who dreams of becoming a famous Mousehunter.  She signs on to adventure when her ship heads out in search of the nefarious pirate, Mousebeard . . . and her exploits and derring do have only just begun!  Fun, funny but an awful lot of mice anyway you slice it!

 So there’s my ten!  What are your favorite swashbuckling reads?  Comments welcome!


About Stephanie Whelan

I'm a children's librarian with a life-long love of all things science fiction and fantasy.

Posted on June 6, 2014, in General Posts, Lists and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. Definitely, the Bloody Jack series by LA Meyer.

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