Mar’s papá is one of the greatest pirates in the Caribbean—and one of the most feared by the Spanish conquerors whom he steals from. But for Mar, their papá’s ship is more than a home; it’s their sanctuary, the only place where they can use their mysterious fire and ice magia without being called a demon, and where they can be their authentic self without people sorting them into gendered boxes that have never really fit.
On Mar’s sixteenth birthday, though, their way of life is shattered when they learn that their papá made a bargain years ago with el Diablo himself—and that he’s come to collect his price. In the chaos of fire and wind that he summons, the ship goes down, and Mar is the only survivor.
Saved by irritating—and inexplicably pretty—son of a rival pirate ship’s captain, Mar is left to forge a new life for themselves, one where no one knows who they are or what they can do and discovery means death. And overhanging it all is el Diablo’s painful ultimatum: either Mar sacrifices themself to save their father by the time two moon cycles have passed, or they’ll lose him forever.
Mar must fend off hostile pirates, Spanish soldiers, an irritatingly persistent demonio, and their own uncertainty and insecurity if they want to have any hope of saving their father—and of getting through the next few weeks alive.
Fast-paced, absorbing, and brilliant, The Wicked Bargain is fantasy pirates at their finest, perfect for fans of The Sunbearer Trials. I absolutely love the historical fantasy world Novoa has woven in this book—blending real-life events (Latinx pirates, Caribbean conflicts with the Spanish colonizers) and fantasy elements (magia, el Diablo, demonios) into a riveting, atmospheric story that I couldn’t put down. Mar was such an awesome protagonist—their realistic, powerful internal conflicts and nuanced gender identity truly brought this story to life for me. I particularly loved their interactions with the supporting cast, particularly Bas and Demi (my two other favorite characters), which had a depth and spark that helped absorb me in their world. I highly recommend The Wicked Bargain to anyone ages thirteen and up who loves engrossing, multilayered YA fantasy, particularly that which stars trans and LGBTQ+ characters.