M. C. Muir’s The Unfortunate Isles is the fourth novel in her ‘Under Admiralty Orders – The Oliver Quintrell Series’ and starts with Quintrell and the Frigate Perpetual back at sea after a long stay at anchor in Gibraltar. Badly in need of careening they find a sheltered cove in the Azores, a decision which brings him into conflict with a ruthless pirate.
As usual the author has chosen a setting for her work that is not often the focus of a naval fiction novel, in this case the Azores, as well as including an appearance by the Portuguese Navy. Quintrell is a very believable character who comes up with a devious plot to overcome the pirate.
All aspects of the story, the characters lives, seamanship, the conditions encountered and the history are well written and woven into a very believable and easy to read plot.
Both the book and the series as a whole are highly recommended reading.
via Review: The Unfortunate Isles by M. C. Muir – Historic Naval Fiction.
Alaric Bond’s The Guinea Boat is the second novel he has written which departs from his Fighting Sail series. It is based around Hastings on the South Coast of England during the Peace of Amiens of 1803. The narrative switches focus between two young men, Nat and Alex, initially strangers who meet and become friends but find themselves on opposite sides of the struggle between the Revenue and the smugglers.
The boys are both outsiders to the close knit community of fishermen who are mostly involved in smuggling and therefore suspicious of Nat a newcomer to the town and Alex the son of a former local Revenue officer. Nat finds work with a fisherman who is also a bit of an outcast and has ambitious plans to have his own boat. After being caught by a hot press, the boys are freed when the tender they are on is attacked by the smugglers but they soon go their separate ways, Alex to join the revenue and Nat to join a smugglers craft.
Nat soon forms plans to fund his own craft by spying on the French and gets a surprise when he eventually meets the leader of the smugglers. A well paced story featuring various South Coast towms and action in the English Channel with a disparate bunch of interesting characters on both sides of the Smuggling/Revenue divide. Highly recommended.
via Review: The Guinea Boat by Alaric Bond – Historic Naval Fiction.
Book three of ‘The Merriman Chronicles’, The Threat in the West Indies, continues the now familiar mix of naval action and espionage. Merriman is now in command of the new three masted sloop Aphrodite with orders to sail to the West Indies where he is to be under the orders of the spy Mr Grahame. The book follows the ship as it moves from island to island engaging privateers and seeking out French spies sowing dissent on the British Islands. Eventually they join the British combined force as they invade the French controlled islands.
This book is a good fit with the previous two and continues the stories of the well rounded characters but in places the narrative seemed a bit sparse. There were also some errors which could be easily rectified with some copy editing. However, the errors were minor and if you are enjoying the series can be easily ignored.
via Review: The Threat in the West Indies by Roger Burnage – Historic Naval Fiction.
I like to learn new things from history and Joan Druett’s The Elephant Voyage revealed the fascinating story of one sealing ship and the fates of it’s crew in a narrative that was educational from start to finish. There are two sections to the book, firstly an account of the voyage where some of the crew find themselves abandoned on a desolate, wind-swept island in the Southern Ocean, while hunting for elephant seals in the 1880’s, and secondly the public outcry and political ramifications in New Zealand of their rescue.
Captain Sanford Miner outfitted the schooner Sarah W. Hunt and recruited an inexperienced crew. After getting to Macquarie Island, a tiny island between Tasmania and Antarctica, they find the beaches devoid of seals and go on to Campbell Island, another rocky outcrop in the Southern Ocean, where the captain sends the mates and crew off in two whale boats to search for seals. Blown out to sea in a storm one boat barely manages to get back to shore after several days only to find the ship gone.
The captain, deciding the crew was lost, had sailed to New Zealand assisted only by the cook. For the reader the Captain is now the villain of the piece but you have to admire the feat of seamanship in getting safely to port. His arrival leads to calls for a rescue mission to search for survivors which starts the political wrangling. The crew are rescued but the consequences are surprising as the courts, politicians, the press and the US consul are all drawn into the story.
This book was interesting, not just for the story outlined above, but for it’s insights into both life in New Zealand at this time and also the establishment by them of huts and stores on the various remote islands for the use of castaways and what can be regarded as an early move towards modern search and rescue.
via Review: The Elephant Voyage by Joan Druett – Historic Naval Fiction.
This book starts with Isam Rais on his first voyage in his new xebec, the Sea Leopard, and he soon finds himself in action against a Sardinian frigate. Badly damaged in the action he returns to port with little to show for his effort other than the enmity of a fellow muslim captain.
To repair his fortune he accepts an anti-pirate mission against his fellow muslims from the Dey but unpopular in the port must ship females to help crew the ship, a decision that will change his destiny. Succesful in his mission but badly wounded he returns to port but Spain declares war and he is put in command of the defensive force. A rich prize comes his way but then surprised and outnumbered he must fight for his life.
There is plenty of naval action and as always in this series it is interesting to see it from the corsairs perspective. It also fills in the back story of Isam Rais family and home.
The storyline is well written, fast paced and hard to put down. It was an enjoyable read which is highly recommended
via Review: The Sea Leopard by M. Kei – Historic Naval Fiction.
Last month Stephen R. Berry released a new Hardcover book, A Path in the Mighty Waters: Shipboard Life and Atlantic Crossings to the New World. in the US. It will be released in the UK on 28 February 2015. It is also available worldwide for Kindle download.
In October 1735, James Oglethorpe’s Georgia Expedition set sail from London, bound for Georgia. Two hundred and twenty-seven passengers boarded two merchant ships accompanied by a British naval vessel and began a transformative voyage across the Atlantic that would last nearly five months. Chronicling their passage in journals, letters, and other accounts, the migrants described the challenges of physical confinement, the experiences of living closely with people from different regions, religions, and classes, and the multi-faceted character of the ocean itself.
Using their specific journey as his narrative arc, Stephen Berry’s A Path in the Mighty Waters tells the broader and hereto underexplored story of how people experienced their crossings to the New World in the eighteenth-century. During this time, hundreds of thousands of Europeans – mainly Irish and German – crossed the Atlantic as part of their martial, mercantile, political, or religious calling. Histories of these migrations, however, have often erased the ocean itself, giving priority to activities performed on solid ground. Reframing these histories, Berry shows how the ocean was more than a backdrop for human events; it actively shaped historical experiences by furnishing a dissociative break from normal patterns of life and a formative stage in travelers’ processes of collective identification.
Shipboard life, serving as a profound conversion experience for travelers, both spiritually and culturally, resembled the conditions of a frontier or border zone where the chaos of pure possibility encountered an inner need for stability and continuity, producing permutations on existing beliefs. Drawing on an impressive array of archival collections, Berry’s vivid and rich account reveals the crucial role the Atlantic played in history and how it has lingered in American memory as a defining experience.