Review: Cinnamon and Gunpowder by Eli Brown

Cinnamon and Gunpowder - Eli BrownPublisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux (June 4th 2013)
Hardcover: 336 pages
Source: Netgalley
Rating: 4 of 5 stars

The year is 1819, and the renowned chef Owen Wedgwood has been kidnapped by the ruthless pirate Mad Hannah Mabbot. He will be spared, she tells him, as long as he puts exquisite food in front of her every Sunday without fail.

To appease the red-haired captain, Wedgwood gets cracking with the meager supplies on board. His first triumph at sea is actual bread, made from a sourdough starter that he leavens in a tin under his shirt throughout a roaring battle, as men are cutlassed all around him. Soon he’s making tea-smoked eel and brewing pineapple-banana cider.

But Mabbot—who exerts a curious draw on the chef—is under siege. Hunted by a deadly privateer and plagued by a saboteur hidden on her ship, she pushes her crew past exhaustion in her search for the notorious Brass Fox. As Wedgwood begins to sense a method to Mabbot’s madness, he must rely on the bizarre crewmembers he once feared: Mr. Apples, the fearsome giant who loves to knit; Feng and Bai, martial arts masters sworn to defend their captain; and Joshua, the deaf cabin boy who becomes the son Wedgwood never had.


First of all, lets talk about this cover. It’s gorgeous no? The colour, the artwork, the smoking gun, and the badass female pirate with her chef. I love it. It sets a tone for the book.

Okay, this book was an imagery feast for me. Brown really created quite the visual adventure with the beautiful contrast of gritty and dark pirate life with the comforting feeling that could only be brought on by enjoying a deliciously cooked meal (seriously, don’t read this book on a hungry stomach).  He spares no expensive when it comes to the description of how these culinary delights are made and with equal fervor, the swashbuckling action and violence on the high seas. As a lover of food and awesome action, I really appreciate the gorgeous details (if this was a movie, the cinematography would probably have me swooning haha). One of my favourite part of the book is watching Wedge try to create the Sunday gourmet meal with the mix and match of ingredients that he could muster up, be it trading things for whatever is found in the fishing nets, or defiantly snatching herbs from Mabbot.

The small sacrifice to this great descriptive story however was the flow of the plot which felt very stagnant at times. The adventure is told in the voice of Wedgwood, and for a while, I found him kind of whiny and prudish but the longer he stayed aboard the Flying Rose, the more I could see his perspective change. A big redeeming point for me was Wedge’s relationship with the deaf cabin boy, Joshua. I loved how much they were able to learn from each other. The love story of this tale, truth be told, isn’t much of a grand love story, but a very subtle long-time-coming sorta romance. In this game of love Wedge had no chance against Captain Hannah Mabbot, in spite of, or rather maybe because of her strong, bold attitude. Mabbot was a wonderful character that wasn’t just a one-dimension pirate, but a true badass, flaws and all, that makes her well fleshed out.

Overall, I really enjoyed the book, though I feel it might not be a book for everyone. It’s a bit hard to pick up if slower, descriptive books isn’t your style. But if you have the time, it’s a wonderful, nitty-gritty no hold barred epic pirate adventure with the added fun of tantalizing  cuisine that’ll have you wishing you’ve kidnapped your own chef.

{*Thanks to the publisher & Netgalley for providing a copy in exchange for an honest review.

Find Eli Brown:

Website | Goodreads

Purchase the book:

Book Depository | Barnes & Noble | Chapters Indigo

Author: Cyn

noun. a bum OT, procrastinator. reader. eater. sleeper. music listen-er. movie go-er. Loves food too much.

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