From the pages of classic literature, to modern translations on stage and screen, a story involving legendary pirate characters with their rogue personalities and swash buckling pursuits, often draws major audience appeal. Whether witnessing Peter Pan and the infamous Captain Hook, reading Robert Louis Stevenson’s complex revelations of Long John Silver in Treasure Island, or viewing the contemporary eccentricities of Johnny Depp portraying the unforgettable Captain Jack Sparrow in the latest release from the Pirates of the Caribbean film franchise, these notorious seafaring adventurers all leave an indelible mark.
In Mark Robert Mazziotti’s “More Precious Than Gold”, that powerful draw continues. Here the author weaves an engaging and intricate tale that embodies all the key elements of a high seas adventure. The year is 1717, and two young men, Bob and Ben, find themselves shipwrecked off the coast of Virginia. In the aftermath of the unexpected storm, the novel unfolds on a remote island where madness, mystery, and romance will intertwine. Ensconced in the legend of the nefarious Blackbeard, known as “King of the Pirates”, Mazziotti presents a fascinating world filled with a bounty of pirate lore, and a precarious treasure hunt that could hold dire consequences for the island’s new arrivals. Early on they encounter Captain John and his wolf-dog Shark. Two years earlier, his ship was hijacked and he was forced ashore on the tropical island with his small crew and the raven-haired Lydia. Now in his greed to locate a hidden boat and buried treasure, rumored to be stashed by Blackbeard, Bob and Ben witness the sudden demise of two crew members. They quickly sense the harshness and unpredictability of this crazed Captain. As the story is told from Bob’s first person POV, the style and word structure seems reminiscent of an earlier time. There is a quiet tone that seems reflective of a journal entry that might convey a mounting apprehension amidst uncertain circumstances. A forty-five day time frame imposed to find the treasure, adds to the tension of the narrative.
With the threat of death looming over their heads, a central map, drawings, and messages from Blackbeard himself, all provide the impetus for the search. Here the island becomes a character in and of itself. The terrain is riddled with secret doors and caves, underground tunnels, and perilous rope bridges. Clues are brought to light with natural elements of carved writings, stone patterns, and arrow heads. From gold and silver skeleton keys, to stone statues and the proverbial message in a bottle, Mazziotti presents an environment lush with details. Like the walking stick used as both an aid and a weapon, the secret passage ways, and Blackbeard’s own diamond ring, the author wisely chooses elemental pieces that artfully resurface within the circumference of this dangerous treasure hunt.
Like the solid gold piece discovered in an island chamber, this book shines through with its well planned and well executed storyline. From beginning to end Mazziotti plots a formative narrative laced with evolving characters, essential themes, and intricate details that bring us full circle in a problematic situation. Amidst this major predicament, the author skillfully lures readers into this island conundrum and in response we become invested in the outcome. In this self-contained literary landscape, like the island itself, Mazziotti creates a world of questions, conflict, and moral dilemmas, with characters that rise to the occasion to challenge and prove their loyalty, friendship, and love.
Beyond the scope of a traditional adventure tale, at its very core the book illuminates what is truly important in our everyday existence. The real hidden treasure surfaces in the following words of this entertaining read. “… some aspects of life are more precious than the value of all the gold in the world. Health, love, and happiness cannot be bought with money for they are matters of the body and spirit.” This work and the sentiment it imparts are both uncovered gems.