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"The Price of Freedom" is a thoroughly entertaining "Pirates of the Caribbean" prequel

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"The Price of Freedom" is a thoroughly entertaining "Pirates of the Caribbean" prequel

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Now that "Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides" is out in theaters, we've learned a bit more about Captain Jack Sparrow's back story. In particular how this rascally rogue may have (SPOILERS AHEAD) robbed Angelica of her innocence when he snuck into a Spanish convent late one night. (Sparrow's excuse? "I thought it was a brothel. Honest mistake.")

Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

But would you like to learn even more about Capt. Jack's earlier exploits? Especially when it comes to the piratical adventures that Sparrow had prior to "The Curse Of The Black Pearl" ? Well, if so, then you really need to pick up a copy of A.C. Crispin's "Pirates of the Caribbean: The Price of Freedom" (Disney Editions, May 2011). Which does a terrific job of navigating these tricky narrative waters.

Now at first glance, hiring a veteran science fiction & fantasy writer like Ms. Crispin to create a "Pirates" prequel may seem like an odd choice by Disney Publishing. But then you have to remember that A.C. is the talent behind that bestselling trio of Star Wars novels, "The Paradise Snare," "The Hutt Gambit" and "Rebel Dawn." Which did a beautiful job of fleshing out Han Solo's back story. And let's not forget that Crispin is the author of four extreme popular Star Trek novels - "Yesterday's Son," "Time for Yesterday," "The Eyes of the Beholders" and "Sarek" - which then gave readers great insights into the inner workings of such iconic Trek characters as Lieutenant Commander Spock, Captain Jean-Luc Picard and Ambassador Sarek.

Copyright Bantam Books. All rights reserved

So - when you get right down to it - A.C. has a gift for taking characters that you thought you already knew and then suddenly broadening their horizons. Creating these entirely new, hugely entertaining tales that - while they may hint at and/or foreshadow future events - still stand on their own.

Which is why Crispin is perhaps the perfect person to tackle a "Pirates" prequel project. Which initially introduces us to a 25-year-old version of Jack Sparrow. Who - as "The Price of Freedom" is getting underway - is this clean-cut merchant seaman who's just trying to make an honest living while working as a first mate for the East India Trading Company.


"And why would Wicked Jack be doing something like that?," you ask. Well, as Crispin explains in some extremely well-crafted flashbacks, the 20-year-old version of Sparrow did something so heinous back in Shipwreck Cove that he's no longer allowed to show his face there. Which is why this pirate now had no choice but to go straight.

Ah, but Jack doesn't stay on the straight & narrow for long. When his captain suddenly succumbs to a heart attack while battling with pirates, Sparrow now finds himself in command of the EITC merchant vessel, Fair Wind. And because the captain of said pirate ship happens to be a woman that Jack has a little history with (and - no - it's not Angelica) ... Well, Sparrow's then able to negotiate a deal with this female which meet with the approval of the new Director of West African Imports and Exports for the East India Trading Company, one Cutler Beckett.

Jack Sparrow and Lord Cutler Beckett in "Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End."
Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

Yes, that Cutler Beckett.

In fact, Beckett is so pleased with the way that Sparrow handled himself during this encounter with pirates that Cutler then names Jack as the captain of the Wicked Wench. What's more, Beckett recruits Sparrow's help in his search for a legendary treasure. One which is said to be hidden on a magical island just off the coast of Africa.

Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

To reveal too much more about "The Price of Freedom" 's plot would really spoil the fun & surprise of this "Pirates of the Caribbean" novel. Which - just to be clear here - is a deliberate departure from that "Jack Sparrow" series for young adults that Disney Press published between 2006 &2008. No, the book that A.C. has written is obviously intended for an adult audience. Which explains those discreet love scenes that Crispin has crafted where Jack dallies with a wench or two.

But what makes "The Price of Freedom" a must-read for "Pirates" fans is that - while she's always pushing the plot of this epic adventure novel forward - Crispin still finds ways to fold in fun & informative moments that fans of the POTC film series are sure to enjoy. Like Jack Sparrow's very first encounters with Hector Barbossa and Davy Jones. Or - for that matter - a definitive explanation as to why the Wicked Wench eventually became known as the Black Pearl. Or great little callbacks to memorable bits of dialogue from the "Pirates" movies (EX: "Why is the rum gone?") or the attraction that started it all (EX: " ... the pirate's life for me").

Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

Better yet, if you're paying really close attention while reading "The Price of Freedom," you'll then catch a cameo appearance by Peter Pan's longtime nemesis. Or better yet, the extremely clever way that A.C. pays tribute to the actor who played Long John Silver in Disney's live-action version of "Treasure Island." And did I mention that the Disney Cruise Line's Castaway Cay (under its original name, mind you) serves as the backdrop for a fierce naval battle in this book?

In short, if you're a "Pirates of the Caribbean" fan who doesn't want the fun to end now that "On Stranger Tides" has finally arrived in theaters, then you definitely need to pick up a copy of "The Price of Freedom." Which - thanks to A.C. Crispin's talent for weaving enchanting back stories - proves that Jack Sparrow's adventures started long before the Black Pearl sailed on the scene.

Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

And if you happen to be down at Walt Disney World later this week ... Well, you can purchase an extra special copy of "Pirates of the Caribbean: The Price of Freedom" by dropping by "Once Upon a Toy" at Downtown Disney this Friday between 2 - 3:30 p.m. Which is where & when Ms. Crispin will be signing copies of this new Disney Editions book.

Better yet, if you're a fan of A.C. 's "Han Solo" trilogy and happen to be down at Disney's Hollywood Studios this Friday for Star Wars Weekends, then be sure to switch by "The Writer's Stop" between 6 - 7:30 p.m. Which is where Ms. Crispin will also be signing "The Price of Freedom" (as well as copies of her other books) during this WDW trip.

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  • Is there anything about the Wicked Wench once belonging to Blackbeard?

  • Wow, sounds like a great read. I'll have to give it a try. Never heard of the author before.

  • I agree the Han Solo trilogy was extremely well written, and from what I remember didn't betray the Han Solo character from the 3 Star Wars movies.  Forgive me if the question was already answered in the article (I stopped reading when it started talking about plot), but, how much of the sequels are referred to in the book?  If there's a lot, I'm on the fence about reading it, as it could be doing a lot of clean up work trying to tie the different world's between the original movie, and the sequels, then again, I liked what I've seen the author do with the Star Wars universe.

  • You overuse the word frankly, it gives your persona away, just a tip.

  • You want to talk about overused .language in a Jim Hill report?  Try listening to his podcast.  Every other phrase is "..here's where it gets interesting..."

  • Amazing book!!!

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