“The Wicked Bargain” Review

A young person is shown taking up most of the cover facing right with their head turned forward. They're wearing a brown shirt and pants and a necklace. They have one hand up with a flame in it. Behind them is the ocean and a pirate ship. The title and author's name are shown over them. Written by Gabe Cole Novoa
Published by Penguin Random House, February 2023
360 pages
Completed September 3, 2023

On Mar León de la Rosa’s sixteenth birthday, el Diablo comes calling. Mar is a transmasculine nonbinary teen pirate hiding a magical ability to manipulate fire and ice. But their magic isn’t enough to reverse a wicked bargain made by their father, and now el Diablo has come to collect his payment: the soul of Mar’s father and the entire crew of their ship.

When Mar is miraculously rescued by the sole remaining pirate crew in the Caribbean, el Diablo returns to give them a choice: give up their soul to save their father by the harvest moon, or never see him again. The task is impossible–Mar refuses to make a bargain, and there’s no way their magic is a match for el Diablo. Then Mar finds the most unlikely allies: Bas, an infuriatingly arrogant and handsome pirate–and the captain’s son; and Dami, a gender-fluid demonio whose motives are never quite clear. For the first time in their life, Mar may have the courage to use their magic. It could be their only redemption–or it could mean certain death.

This was an interesting book. It has some great parts to it but feels a little immature. Granted the main characters are teenagers reacting like teenagers to everything. I feel like it could have done with a bit more editing and figuring out how the story was meant to go. I got tired of how long it took Mar to realize they could actually control their powers – the sudden realization didn’t feel like it made a whole lot of sense. But again, teenagers. I’m glad it worked out in the end though and it was mostly a fun read.