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Bêlit: Shipwrecked review

eBook by Violet Castro

Cover by Jenny Frison

Illustrations by Patrick Zircher 

From Titan Books and Heroic Signatures

Spoilers! Spoilers! 

A storm is battering Bêlit's ship the Tigress, crewmates are flying overboard.

First mate Seneka, an expert tracker, is trying to protect Bêlit from the storm, They've been together for five years.

The Tigress stops moving suddenly, they have hit land, an island.

Hassan starts assessing the damage.
Bêlit hits the beach, removes her boots and devours a fallen blood fruit from a nearby tree. 
Hassan needs to work on the mast and to cut down trees to repair the Tigress's belly.
Seneka, Mithras and Zeke will gather fruit, coconuts and make a fire.
Nora will fish.
They eat under the clouds that are obscuring the stars and preventing them from knowing their position.

They start exploring the island in teams.
Zeke and Mithras into the jungle.
Nora and Homer to the left.
Horus and Ajani to the right.

The teen Mithras returns to tell Bêlit that Nora and Ajani have disappeared close to a mysteriously alluring waterfall.
Bêlit starts sharpening her sword.

The next day, two crewmates are missing.
A gigantic barbed net and metal spikes are now preventing the Tigress from escaping.

Bêlit, Seneka, Mithras, Sufi and Zeke reach the mysterious waterfall at the centre of the island.
Seneka picks up familiar fish scales and serpent skin.

Six shimmering long tailed beings covered in fish and serpent scales armed with spears and long swords appear.

Sufi gets a spear in the thigh.
A creature kills an unnamed sailor.
Bêlit beheads an unnamed creature.

Cipactli, another similar but larger creature part serpent, part fish with yellow eyes/vertical slit pupils emerges from the waterfall.
Holding his green glowing pendant of a two-headed serpent eating a fish.
The other creatures freeze and clam up.

Seneka can't believe that Cipactli is actually real.
Cipactli touches his glowing jade pendant and his followers lower their weapons.
Cipactli kisses Bêlit's hand.
Bêlit reminds Cipactli of his previous Queen/lover who died in childbirth.
Seneka and Mithras are told to return to the ship.
Cipactli tells two of his silent warriors to go with the pirates to take down trees and the barrier in the water and another to take care of Sufi.

Bêlit enters the waterfall into Cipactli's kingdom.  
Bêlit sees pits filled with bones. Cipactli tells her that her missing sailors have sadly been devoured and he invites her to dinner and a cenote swim.
Bêlit returns to a nursed Sufi.
A silent warrior is ordered to carry Sufi and accompany Bêlit back to the beach.
Bêlit tells Seneka she plans to plunder Cipactli's temple and goes back to Cipactli with his 3 silent warriors.
Seneka and Hassan start working on an escape plan.

Bêlit finds the feast, starts drinking wine, gets naked (but keeps her gold), lets her hair loose and gets into the pool.
Cipactli enters the pool, he wants Bêlit to be his Queen. They make love.

The following day, while Cipactli is sleeping Bêlit spots more interesting stuff to steal.
She goes back to the pool for another bath and finds Cipactli's breeding room full of female skeletons. Enraged she quietly goes back to Cipactli's bed.

Cipactli brings Bêlit breakfast in bed. Fearing the food drugged, she doesn't ingest anything. Cipactli mentions that his people only do two things: eat island visitors and steal their possessions.
Cipactli wants her crew and ship gone. Bêlit agrees.

Bêlit goes back to the beach, but instead of telling her crew to depart without her, she listens to Seneka's tale of Cipactli. If Bêlit can grab Cipactli's jade pendant she will be able to kill him AND control his warriors.

Bêlit goes back to the cenote, gets into the pool, kills Cipactli, takes his pendant and puts it around her neck.

Cipactli's warriors appear, Bêlit beheads Cipactli and orders the warriors not to move.
She blows into a conch shell to alert her crew of her triumph.
She orders Cipactli's warriors to kill each other.

Seneka, Mithras, Zeke and others arrive with burlap sacks to steal everything in sight. 

The Queen of the Black Coast and her pirates are now heading to the port of Shale Bay to properly repair the Tigress.

What I did like:

No Jeff Probst anywhere.

The sexiest Heroic Signatures short-story yet.

A Mexican American author!

Bêlit was so popular in México she had her own unlicensed comic book series: La reina de la Costa Negra.

Women and men are part of Bêlit's crew.

Cipactli is an actual primeval monster in Aztec mythology.

The Feathered Serpent, Quetzalcoatl is mentioned.

México has over 10,000 cenotes.

The influence of the Schwarzenegger/John Milius film is strong. 

Your subvocalization of Cipactli as James Earl Jones is assured.  

The silent warriors are similar to Xenomorphs. If you're a fan of the film written and directed by James Cameron seek out "Aliens: Vasquez" also from the pen of V. Castro.

What I did not like:

An Atlatl (a poison dart-thrower) appears but is never used.

The Cipactli vs Bêlit fight was too short and not very satisfying.

Not even a funny Conan cameo at the end of the tale.

I give it an 8/10. Violet brings us a nice spicy story infused with folklore and violence... with No Conan! No barbarians at the gate? No Cimmerians? Zero. And it's still a surprisingly good read. Titan/Heroic Signatures, we need to see a Valeria story by V. Castro as soon as possible!

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