AOS Book Reviews

This section contains reviews of AOS books by David Hayes and members of the forum

Naval Fiction Reviews : Non-Fiction Reviews : Pirate Fiction Reviews : Nautical Fiction Reviews : Modern Era Reviews

Harry Heron: Into the UnknownHarry Heron: Into the Unknown, which has just been reissued after a substantial re-write, is the second book in the Harry Heron Adventures. I should say up from that this book is not for the HNF purist as it is principally a work of science fiction set 400 years in the future, however, if you read the first work or want to experience something a bit different it is worth considering, particularly for younger readers.

The premise is that three sailors from a Napoleonic era ship suddenly find themselves on a space ship and in amongst the plot the author explores the differences between the two time periods and how their outdated skills might be useful in an age when they have long since been forgotten. In a particularly interesting sequence they find themselves stranded without technology and being able to rig and sail a ship suddenly becomes a more than useful skill.

This was a well written book which I enjoyed and if you are looking for a bit of a diversion one I recommend.

The Virgin of the Wind RoseThe nautical element of this book is based around a secret society, heirs to the Templars, under the control of Henry the Navigator and the voyages of Portuguese mariners known to history. Are they just explorers? Is Christopher Columbus who he seems to be? or are they trying to avoid the Tribulations of the Book of Revelation.

What they were doing is revealed through a parallel modern day plot as history repeats itself and the clues they left must be unravelled by State Department lawyer Jaq Quartermane and a roguish antiquities thief named Elymas.

The modern element is a similar basis, though unique plot, to Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code and is a page turner as the reader is eager to learn the next twist in the unfolding mystery.

Whilst the nautical element of this book is only minor it was a refreshing and interesting read which wove together a number of alternative history theories and historical locations I was not previously aware of in a very well written narrative which I thoroughly enjoyed.

Highly recommended.

Water GhostsAlthough not from the classic age of sail Water Ghosts is set aboard a traditional Chinese Junk in the Pacific ocean which is being used as a sail training ship for troubled teenagers. The narrative starts off as a fairly conventional story about that  subject but slowly morphs into a fantasy adventure featuring the ghosts of the title. When the adults are lost the tenneagers must learn to work together is they are to survive.

It was an imaginative story with strong characterisations and a well written plot.

An enjoyable read which is recommended.

The ShantymanIf you want to be taken to the deck of a clipper in the mountainous seas of a southern ocean gale, Rick Spilman is the author for you. His description of life at sea in such vessels are vivid and bring to life the conditions faced by the officers and crew of such vessels.

In his latest book, The Shantyman, he tells the story of one such crew, on the Alahambra, voyaging from Sydney to New York in 1870. Jack Barlow is hoisted aboard paralytic drunk but proves to be not just an able shantyman, but when the captain dies and the murderous mate is washed overboard, the man who will pull the crew together and as the new captain get them home. Facing the southern ocean ice and later a hurricane, he overcomes his tragic past to get them to safety and restart his life.

Successful, tragedy strikes again, but will the crew he has saved now rally round and manage to save him.

A fast paced and well written story of life at sea and also of New York at this time. Hard to put down and highly recommended.

The Guinea BoatAlaric 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.

The Guinea BoatOriginally published on the The Old Salt Blog

Alaric Bond's latest novel, The Guinea Boat, is set in the south-east of England during the brief Peace of Amiens of 1803. Two young men, Nat and Alex, meet in the coastal village of Hastings and become friends. Both are outsiders. Nat has left home seeking to make his way in the world and is a stranger in the village, whereas Alex is the son of a local Revenue officer, who died under mysterious circumstances, leaving Alex an outcast in a village which depends on smuggling as well as fishing for its livelihood. While England and France are no longer at war, no one expects the peace to last, and life in Hastings and along the coast is anything but peaceful. Family feuds, the ongoing struggle between smugglers and the preventative men, as well as intrigues with the French, each have their own risks and dangers.

After being caught up and then unexpectedly freed from a hot press, Nat and Alex go their separate ways. Alex follows his father's path and joins the Revenue Service, while Nat charts a more nefarious course into smuggling and free-lance espionage. The action takes place at sea, as well as on both sides of the English Channel. Fans of Bond's "Fighting Sail" series will not be disappointed in this fast paced tale even if the Royal Navy stays largely in port. The smugglers prove as challenging and formidable a foe as the French. Highly recommended.

© 2008-2022 David Hayes (Astrodene)