Michael Molloy is, apparently, an accomplished author of young adult fiction -- his "witch" books are very popular. With Peter Raven Under Fire, he turns his hand to historic naval fiction for young adults. Peter, the well-educated son of a clergyman is determined to go to sea and has prevailed on his father to find him a midshipman's berth. He is almost immediately swept into intrigue and espionage as he becomes the protégé of the mysterious Commodore Beaumont. Unfortunately, Molloy has not done his homework. Or rather, he has not done it well enough. The book is riddled with howlers and inaccuracies. He makes a muddle of naval vessels (100-gun frigates, indeed!), naval ranks and shipboard vocabulary.
He makes no pretense at describing ship handling -- captains simply turn their ships. There are also language issues that a copy editor should have caught, like confusing "feint" and "feign". Molloy's conception of interactions among officers and men is based more on his imagination than on research. Still, this is fiction and written to engage young adults, so maybe that excuses some liberties. The same must be said for the preposterous plot in which Raven and Beaumont pit themselves against an evil villain who, like Dr. No, plots to rule the new world from his secret island fortress. For all that, Molloy is a skilled story teller and sweeps the reader into the action. For those willing to suspend disbelief and overlook historical inaccuracies (or, like many young readers, be unaware of them), this is an engaging story. I imagine a youngster would enjoy it, but if I were choosing historic naval fiction for a young friend I would probably start with Linda Collison or Paul Dowswell.
Description of: Peter Raven Under Fire
Author: Michael Molloy