Cover Image: The Wicked Bargain

The Wicked Bargain

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Member Reviews

This was such a great read! I don't know many pirate stories and especially none that are queer, have trans rep, and are Latine so I was super excited about this. I loved the characters (Dami was definitely my favorite!) and their interactions, the plot, the use of Spanish and the setting, and the conclusion. The writing is very easy to read and beautiful, and just, I really enjoyed reading this book. A 4.5 from me.
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The Wicked Bargain has hands-down become one of my favorite books of the year, and one of my favorite books with transmasculine representation. Novoa was able to sculpt out a variety of characters within a magic and fantasy system, steeping readers deep into the world with a sense of magical realism and familiar tropes of found family.
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This is absolutely a book I did not want to put down. The magic system was interesting, the historical element made me want to learn more about that time period, and I felt so seen by our nonbinary protagonist, Mar. I think anyone who likes Children of Blood and Bone, Frozen, or Pirates of the Caribbean would LOVE this book as much as I do.
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On Mar León-de la Rosa's 16th 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 any 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 genderfluid 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.

The MC is Mar, a transmasculine non-binary pirate who is a crew member on their father's pirate ship. I enjoyed that there was no transphobia or homophobia in the book, and Mar was treated with dignity throughout the book. The writing was amazing, and once I started reading, I tore through the book in a couple of days. Overall I enjoyed this book a lot, and I rated it 5 stars.

*Thank you to Random House Children's and Turn the Page Tours for this ARC in exchange for my honest review.*
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A DNF for me. I think this is something I will recommend to fantasy teen readers. The trans/non-binary rep is amazing and I will be shoving this in peoples faces to read. I keep thinking fantasy is for me, and the cover was so gorgeous I just had to request it. Latinx pirate fantasy of someone else's dreams.
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AMAZING pirate tale. Includes just enough historical credibility to make you want to research the setting and timeline more. The lgbtq+ component was an added layer that was really good but not too in your face. An amazing fast paced swashbuckling pirate tale full of action and a surprising amount of emotion.
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Hey Words & Whimsy, come and join me on the high seas! We'll visit tropical islands, feel cool ocean breezes, hang out with pirates, and maybe make a deal or two with the devil. Most of all, we'll find out who we really are, come to terms with our past, and probably save the day. It certainly won't be easy, but it will be so rewarding. Oh hey, there's also magic! Ready? Cool, let's go then!

We recently chatted with Gabe Cole Novoa on The Nest, who was delightful, so go and check it out! His new book The Wicked Bargain is full of pirates and action, sweet cinnamon roll characters, the most attractive demonio, and the most evil, El Diablo. Mar, the star of the story, is a young transmasc non-binary person, struggling to control their magia, powers of fire and ice. They mostly try to keep it hidden, only using it in secret or when there is no other choice. Their past has made it clear this is the safest route. Heartbreaking, but necessary.

One disasterous night, under sail with their pirate family, Mar's father, the captain of La Catalina is confronted with the fruits of a past agreement with El Diablo, who is coming to seal their deal and take their father's soul as promised. All are lost but Mar, who is then rescued by another pirate crew on the ship La Ana. Still grieving, but put to work on the new ship, they begin to form a new family, but are determined to take back their father's soul from El Diablo. The underworld is certainly not done with Mar, and with the help of Bas, the son of La Ana's Captain, they just might do it, but there is so very much that happens in between, with so many lives in the balance. It's a string of no-win situations, and deals that Mar knows are a bad idea. That Demonio is just something!

Somehow through it all, Mar learns to live to their fullest potential, and is able to become their truest self. It's a beautiful Latinx, LGBTQ+ YA fantasy, with lovely imagery, a range of emotion, and a satisfying ending.
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What I liked:
LGBTQIA+ representation by an author who identifies this way makes for a compelling fantasy story centered around Latinx pirate history. We have a pirate adventure with characters who don't pretend to be things they are not and are true to who they are. The basic plot goes as we have young Mar, whose dad essentially made a deal with the devil, and that devil comes to collect—throwing Mar off into the sea and off on a quest to try and save him. Mar's mission will involve revenge, redemption, and eventually revolution.
Final Verdict:
The Wicked Bargain is an immersive, vibrant adventure with swashbuckling, secrets, and deals with a devil. If you're looking for a Caribbean experience with a diverse cast, romantic tension, and heart-warming found family pick up The Wicked Bargain today.
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Thank you to the publisher and NetGalley for giving me an ARC in return for an honest review! 
This was a 4.25 star for me rounded down to a 4 for NetGalley’s star system.
Overall I really enjoyed this book and this story! I loved Dami and Bas and although Mar could get repetitive and irritating in terms of refusing to ask for or accepting help at times, I did like their character as well overall. 
Additionally another critique I had which kept this from being a 5 star book for me was how drawn out the middle felt and how rushed the end was. While I did like the ending overall, I did feel that the pacing could have been adjusted and improved which would have made it a better reading experience throughout the book for me. 
However as I said earlier I really liked this story! I love reading about pirates (especially queer ones) and this was a well done pirate story with significant queer, trans, and Latinx representation which I always love seeing :)
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Y’all, y’all. We all love Pirates of the Caribbean. But what if we made it queer…er…. That’s this book. We have a transmasc nonbinary Latinx Magic welding pirate set on seeking revenge. I’ve devoured this story twice already. And now I’m listening to the audio book. It’s that good.

This book is 100% plot driven which keeps you on the edge of your seat, and features one of my absolute favorite tropes, found family.  Overall this book is just one big giant thumb up. All of the stars. Just give them all away
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First of all, I loved the representation in this. Transmasc and genderfluid characters are not that common in the books I usually read and it's nice to see YA branch out more and be inclusive.

Second of all, pirates and magic! I'm happy that pirate books have made a comeback in the previous decade and I'm always up for some looting and treasure. The setting was so much fun and I like that crews on pirate ships seem to follow a found family trope. Mar's magic was also cool and I liked seeing them trust in it more and come into their abilities.

The story itself was good, with a sweet romance and an interesting villain. What got me was the pacing. It had a few slow spots, especially from about halfway through three-quarters, and I found myself wandering a little. I think this could have either been a bit shorter or added more action or romantic scenes to keep things moving.

Great book and well narrated!

I voluntarily read and reviewed this book. All opinions are my own. Thank you to Random House and NetGalley for the copy.
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OKAY THIS WAS SO GOOD!!!! I listened to this on audiobook and I’m so glad I did - Vico Ortiz, a nonbinary actor, narrated it (anyone watch Our Flag Means Death?!) and it brought so much life and meaning to the story. The pacing of this was excellent, I loved the romance, but the ending wrapped up just a little bit too quickly for me. Otherwise it was so good! I listened to the whole thing in a day!!! Highly recommend 😍
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The Wicked Bargain has everything for me. Good characters, good plot/plot twists, good writing, representation among the characters, intriguing world-building/magic. It’s hard for me not to like this book, especially when I was hooked right from the start.

The writing style here is good, easy to follow. And yet, there’s a subtlety to it that adds to the mystery and the twists in the plot. I also appreciate how it pulls us back from Mar’s perspective and gives us some sort of flashback that is crucial to Mar’s story.

Speaking of Mar, the characters are amazing in this book. They definitely made this story so unique and exciting on its own. Mar is a compelling main character. You can see their grief and doubt, especially at the start of the story. It was nice to see them grow and accept their identity as the story went on. And of course, I loved the genderfluid demon, Dami. I love how confident they are in their skin and how they command the reader’s attention whenever they’re on the page. And Bas, I adored Bas. However, I wanted more of his characterization, maybe to dive a little deeper into his wants and aspirations.

As for the romance, I kind of expected more? But at the same time, I liked the softness and innocence of Bas and Mar’s relationship. They banter around, Bas annoys Mar sometimes, Mar remains unimpressed most of the time. They’re just funny and lovely together. I feel like I wanted to see more of that, more of their little moments together as well as pivotal moments in their relationship.

When it comes to the plot and the world-building, I loved the blend of magical elements and historical inspirations. On one hand you have Mar’s magia and El Diablo and the myth of the forbidden magic. But also, you get to see elements pulled from real life, like Latinx people resisting and fighting the Spanish colonization, and Carribean pirates and their life on the seas.

Though the plot seemed simple, you were easily pulled in and hooked into the story. Suddenly, you find yourself following Mar and the rest of these pirates into raids and shore leaves, demon deals, and bar fights. You’ll want to know what will happen next—if Mar will get the revenge they’re looking for, and if they will finally learn to wield their power. The story just gets better and better as you flip the page.

Overall, this book was a wonderful read, and it surely did not disappoint. And now, I want more stories from this world. Exact rating: 4.5
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For me this one just was really for me I guess.  I thought that the high seas adventure was going to be amazing but I just felt bored.
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This was one of my most anticipated books of the year, and it exceeded all my expectations! The Wicked Bargain was kind of like Pirates of the Caribbean except way more queer. One of my favorite things about this book was how unimportant gender identity/sexuality was in this book. The characters were just being themselves, no questions asked, which I loved. Sometimes in queer YA, there's a habit of having a lot of angst around one's sexuality and though I do enjoy those stories as well, I also really like when queerness is treated as no big deal. Therefore, the drama has to come from somewhere else... and boy was there lots of drama in this book! Botched bargains, el Diablos, demonios, Spaniards, magia, and, of course, lots of pirates! The Wicked Bargain had me in a chokehold from the very beginning. Also, don't even get me started on Mar and Bas, love them both with my whole heart!
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4.25/5 ⭐️

“Man may not be quiet right, but it’s not entirely wrong, and certainly nowhere near as wrong a woman. Boy feels better, good even, though it’s not completely right, either.” 

The Wicked Bargain is the first book that I’ve felt has represented my relationship with gender. It’s like the author read my mind. I’ve described by gender in the exact way the quote above does many times! While I’ve read many amazing books with non-binary main characters, this is the first one that has anything beyond an androgynous presenting character. There was also a genderfluid character in this book, meaning it’s hits two of the vast, diverse identities under the non-binary umbrella. 

The aspect I enjoyed, and wasn’t expecting (to be honest I didn’t read beyond trans masculine non-binary before hitting and to tbr) was the setting. This takes place in the 1800’s in the Caribbean. The main characters are fighting against Spanish colonialists while also fighting the devil! The prose in this book absolutely paints a picture of the setting as well, and I felt like I was there the whole time. The way the main character uses their magic is also explained really visually and thoughtfully. Another thing it handled perfectly was the process of grief, and shows how it comes and goes in waves. Along with a wholesome romance, there is something for everyone. 

My main criticism was the pacing. There was a part where very little plot movement was happening. It started fast, and then immediately slows down for a large portion. However, the second half was action packed.
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The Wicked Bargain is a swash buckling pirate adventure with magic and a dash of romance thrown in. A fairly quick read, with good world building and an interesting plot!

Thank you to the publisher for providing a copy for review
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[3.5] i know i am not the target audience (YA is not my standard fare by a long shot), but a transmasc nonbinary latinx pirate possessing magia PLUS that gorgeous cover? i couldn't resist requesting this literal pirates of the caribbean story.

my favorite aspect of the book: Mar is the perfect vehicle for proper lgbtqia+ representation. i love that in this world, no one bats an eye at people's gender identity or sexuality. Mar still has to confront their feelings of body dysmorphia, but it's depicted in a sensitive manner that i believe any reader in a similar boat can relate to and feel seen. this is coupled with their arduous process of coming to terms with their magia as a power for good and not evil during their quest to save the people they love. 

the story is very much plot-driven - some developments a bit cliché at times and the grand finale predictable, but one that i imagine a younger me would have had fun with. my biggest niggle comes with the dialogue. occasionally stilted, it made getting a nuanced feel for the characters beyond a broad overview challenging, such as the love interest Bas. he's a supportive, happy-go-lucky guy with a talent for maps but that's everything i could glean from the text. i think i was hoping for him amongst other characters to have been fleshed out more. but that being said, i'm also a sucker for found family and unlikely allies, so it was most exciting for me to find that both featured prominently. those tropes truly reign supreme!

<i>Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for providing a copy of the book - this is my honest review :)</i>
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I could not move through with the story. I read a couple of chapters but for some reason I didn't feel like I could continue reading
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This book was perfect for coping with the OFMD brain rot. I loved reading about a found family of so many queer pirates of color, and the transmasculine nonbinary representation was great. I'm wondering if there's going to be a sequel at some point? I hope so, because there's still so much more in this world that could be explored.
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