Unexpected Reviews: 24 (Season 7)
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Underground Reading: Captain Ironhand by Rosamund Marshall

Captain IronhandCaptain Ironhand (1957) is a not-so-dashing, not-so-thrilling adventure of the high seas. Set in 1772, Captain Ironhand features James Challoner - a faux pirate - and Lady Artis Grantley - a faux heroine. 

The book starts with Challoner out of work and out of sorts. He's a Navy man, but false accusations of rape from a sex-starved Countess had him stripped of his commission (reader, please note, "women = bitches"). His luck changes when a patriotic coalition of Lords, Admirals and Christian businessmen select him to lead a mission of Great, Manly Daring.

Flying in the face of conventional wisdom (that is, "don't give boats to sex criminals"), the coalition gives Challoner a state-of-the-art warship, a handpicked crew and a blank cheque to equip the lot. In turn, Challoner is given a fancy fake name, the "Ironhand" of the title, and sent forth to prey on pirates. Set a thief to catch a thief seems to be the vaguely-conceived plot. 

This cunning strategy falls apart a bit when Challoner is instructed that: a) his mission is to get intelligence of pirate activities and b) never to report back.

Things continue to look up for Challoner when, on his way to his first piratical job interview, he meets a lady. In the timeless tradition of crappy period romances and Disney movies, she's a spunky young thing DRESSED AS A BOY (that's how you know she's not conventional, see?). When young "Kit" runs down Challoner with "his" horse, Challoner hauls "him" off the saddle and gives "him" a thorough spanking. This is exactly as creepy as it sounds - although as the reader quickly learns, Challoner's response to any situation is to spank it.

The spanking reveals "Kit" as a woman ("the shapely globes that ironed themselves on his thigh" were a dead giveaway). So impressed by her spanker, Kit invites the flea-bitten, unemployed rapist of a Captain over for dinner. From demon-horseman to timid dinner date, that's the power of our old friend slappenfuk.

The plot thickens (curdles, really), when "Kit" isn't just a WOMAN, she's actually Lady Artis Grantham - known amongst the lower classes as "Grant-em-all", in the sort of wit that one can expect from the 18th-century-lower-classes. She's not actually the hoo-er of her reputation, Artis is just unconventional, carefree, a free spirit, unshackled by society, etc. Basically, she's exactly the sort of woman you might expect from this book: liberated enough to ignore proper behavior, but dumb enough to fall for the first homeless sex-fiend that spanks her in public.

Challoner, as Captain Ironhand, sets off for the Moroccan coast. Lady Artis, as Kit the Cabin Boy, follows. The trick of dressing as a boy got her spanked once, and she's clearly keen to try it again. To everyone's delight, it works. Ironhand, enforcing discipline on his ship, seems to be spanking everyone until he finds some shapely globes. Hilarity ensues.

Against all odds, Challoner's scheme to learn more about the pirate menace works. This is accomplished by blowing up a pirate stronghold and then sinking ships (over the course of about three pages). The pirates, rather than keelhauling the spanky bastard, fall magically in love with this behavior - clearly recognizing one of their own. Ironhand has slappenfukked the entire pirate world.

And the pirate plot couldn't be more sinister! In a triumph of nonsensical bullshit, Challoner discovers that ALL THE PIRATES IN THE WORLD are serving under the yoke of a Shadowy Muslim Empire. Using the vast wealth of Arabia, they are set to RULE THE WORLD. In one particularly ludicrous scene, Challoner is introduced to the entire council of Muslim Pirate Overlords (they even have titles like "Minister of Finance" and "Minister of Eating Christian Babies"). 

Rather than continue their (previously successful) scheme of piracy, the Muslim Pirate Empire has decided to focus their efforts on assassinating the King and Queen of England. WITH A BEAR. That's all you need to know about the "threat" of the enemy.

I'm not sure which is worse - the "romance" or the "adventure". Challoner swaggers ignorantly through the book, spanking everything that isn't nailed down. Artis is a loathesome little idiot who combines whiny protestations of innocence with exhausting sexual adventures. The Muslim Pirate Overlords have all the tact and subtly of Fu Manchu with absolutely none of the flair. The only character with any redeeming qualities is the bear - as the poor bastard is trapped, miserable, and wants to kill everything around him. The reader can empathize.

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For more on slappenfuk, try our review of The Jebson Kids.