AOS Book Reviews


This section contains reviews of AOS books by David Hayes and members of the forum (Modern Era Reviews)

Review: Lewrie and the Hogsheads by Dewey Lambdin

Lewrie and the HogsheadsLewrie and the Hogsheads is a novella in which news that a Spanish privateer has taken an American merchant ship gives Lewrie the opportunity to escape the boredom of port and take his smaller ships hunting. He has a strong feeling that all is not what it seems and the narrative unfolds the strategy to uncover the mystery.

As a novella it's fairly short but it is well written and gives the reader the full Lewrie experience. This is particularly useful as with 19 books in the series it can be daunting and expensive to start a new series. The ebook also includes the first two chapters of the latest full book, Hostile Shores, and having read that you will be off to purchase the full book.

If you have not yet purchased an e-reader and still want a taster of Lewrie a brief excerpt of the novella is available on the book description page.

The novella is highly recommended.

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Pipester Review: This Wonderful Year by Mark E. Benno

This Wonderful YearEdward Pamprill is a younger son of one of the richest lords in England. By his twenty-first birthday in 1805, the year of Nelson's victory at Trafalgar, he is a wastrel, given up to a life of drink, gambling and debauchery. When his father realizes that they are competing for the affections of the same housemaid, he arranges for Edward to be taken up as a deserter by a Royal Navy press gang. He is stripped of his finery and dragged aboard the HMS Atlantis, frigate, which sails immediately.

What might have been a story of degradation and despair becomes considerably less fraught, thanks to Edward's optimism, resilience and good luck. It is clear to all aboard Atlantis that Pamprill is a gentleman who has never served in the navy and that the charge of desertion is absurd. With the exception of one inimical lieutenant, everyone aboard thinks that Pamprill was unfairly impressed and awaits official word that he can be released. Unfortunately, an active frigate can stay ahead of the mail for some time, and it will be many months before Edward's situation is resolved. In the meantime, several of Edward's gentlemanly attributes are very useful aboard the Atlantis. His penmanship is excellent, and lands him an appointment as the captain's clerk and a berth in the warrant officer's mess. The ship soon sees action and his thorough training with a Prussian fencing master makes Edward a hero among his shipmates. In fact, the superstitious tars decide that Edward's presence is auspicious; he is their "lucky penny" and the Atlantis will be successful as long as he is aboard. As Edward gains confidence and competence, he grows into increasingly responsible leadership roles, including two extended adventures ashore (one in Naples and one in the United States) whose success depends on his unique combination of lordly upbringing and navy affiliation.

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Review: First Voyage by David Healey

First VoyageFirst Voyage is the first book in a new series, called The Sea Lord Chronicles, which follows young Alexander Hope as he joins his first ship, His Majesty's Frigate Resolution, sailing for a patrol in the channel during the war against Napoleon.

The novel has two main fantasy elements which distinguish it from a normal 'follow the career' series.  Firstly the ships have an 'air wing' in the form of gryphon's. Something similar has been tried before but Healey has put much more emphasis on the naval aspect and for the dedicated HNF fan it is a much better read. One or two terms used may tend to grate a bit to the purist but it is an alternate reality so some differences should be expected.

The second difference is that Hope is a Sea Lord, one who has the ability to manipulate the actions of water. At the start of the novel he does not know he has inherited the ability from a famous ancestor and the narrative follows his growing awareness of the power he possesses and it's implications for his shipmates and country.

This was a good, well paced novel which brought the various plot aspects together well and I look forward to reading more of Hope's adventures. Recommended.

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Review: Barbary Slave by Robert Evans

Barbary SlaveBarbary Slave follows the adventures of American sailor James Cathcart as his ship is taken by Barbary pirates and he spends the following eleven years as a slave of the Dey of Algiers while American politicians refuse to pay ransom.

The book is largely set ashore as Cathcart works his way through the slave hierarchy and his character is used to explore the interaction between Christian slaves and their Muslim captors both at the local level and in international diplomacy. It also brings out the internal tensions in the region between the Turks and the various Arab factions.

In reading age of sail fiction you frequently come across sections about the Barbary pirates and whilst there is little sea action in the book, this is to some extent it's attraction as I enjoyed the insight this detailed study of the realities of both life ashore as a slave and of the situation from the point of view from the Dey of Algiers gave me.

The book had good characterisations and the various aspects of the plot were brought together in a well written and well paced narrative that was good to read. Recommended.

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Review: A Certain Threat by Roger Burnage

A Certain ThreatA Certain Threat is the first book in a new series about the Merriman family and if subsequent books keep up this standard it will be a good one. The plot follows the adventures of James Merriman as he is promoted, given a new ship, the sloop Aphrodite, and sent off to the Irish Sea to deal with smugglers, traitors and espionage.

The book has a full cast of well rounded characters surrounding Merriman in the form of his family, friends and crew. As Burnage unravels the mystery of who is plotting against England the focus is skilfully shifted in awell paced narrative that is hard to put down.  

Part of the novel is based around activities ashore but it was well blended with the naval action. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this new addition to the naval fiction family and look forward to reading more.


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Review: The Beckoning Ice by Joan Druett

The Beckoning IceThe Beckoning Ice is a mystery novel and, as you would expect from award winning historian Joan Druett, an extremely well written nautical novel as well. The plot of a great mystery novel must twist and turn and be totally unpredictable until the final pages and this is fully achieved in a hard to put down narrative.

Druett has  created a great detective in Wiki Coffin with a complex family background which enables him to be the outsider when the plot demands it and it's good to see a new book in the series after a lengthy gap. He is half-Maori, half-Yankee "linguister," who also serves  as the fleet representative of American law and order for the United States Exploring Expedition.

The story is set against a background of their work in the area of Cape Horn and when a sealing schooner hails the brig Swallow with a strange tale of a murdered corpse on an iceberg an investigation begins. The rivalries of the officers of the various ships lead to there being plenty of suspects for Wiki to investigate. 

Combining historical and nautical accuracy with a fast paced mystery thriller has produced a marvelous book which is highly recommended.

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