AOS Book Reviews


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

TridentThis new title in Michael Aye's Fighting Anthony's series covers new ground as the author, for part of the story, moves the setting away from the Caribbean. With knowledge of an attempt by American privateers and the French to intercept the vital East India trade a squadron is despatched to the waters off Madagascar, however after his Admiral is wounded, as Flag Captain, Gabe finds himself in command and facing a superior force.

Throughout this series the author has built up quite a large cast of characters but as usual we are reintroduced to them without slowing down the pace of the story. There are no detailed descriptions of ship handling but several action sequences.

The 'Fighting Anthony's is set during the American struggle for independence but does not seek to recount specific historical events. This is another good yarn with a fresh feel and 'Trident' as well as the series as a whole is recommended.

The Massacre of InnocentsThe Massacre of Innocents is the first book in a proposed new series set during the period when the Royal navy was undergoing it's rapid reduction after the Napoleonic Wars. Many authors concentrate on the anti-slavery patrols but Lawrence, in a refreshing change, has chosen the Greek struggle for independence from Turkey.

The European nations were not officially engaged in the early stages of this conflict so HMS Surprise has to act as a Letter of Marque aiding the Greek navy in it's attempts to defend it's islands from the much more powerful Turks. Ancient Greece was of course made up of individual city states, often at war, and it seems as if not much had changed by this time with little cooperation between the fleets of different islands or their civilian populations. Surprise is the only frigate facing a powerful enemy so running rather than fighting is often the only available option, but eventually some degree of cooperation between all involved leads to a decisive battle.

Lawrence's narrative had a group of well developed characters which, as you might suspect from the series title 'The Continuing Voyages of HMS Surprise', are reminiscent of O'Brian's work.

I enjoyed this story and look forward to reading more. Recommended.

Blackwell's ParadiseThe Age of Sail naval fiction market is becoming a crowded one so it is hard for authors to come up with something new and unique that grabs the readers attention. V. E. Ulett achieves that in Blackwell's Paradise. Our hero finds himself in a leaking ship only fit for the breakers yard. That is unlikely to impress the Admiral he is carrying as a passenger and when the ship is wrecked you might suspect that would be the end of his career.

He is however needed for a mission to the pacific so he soon finds himself with a new command and at sea with permission to take his wife with him. Things do not go well for Blackwell who finds himself ashore and a prisoner in unusual circumstances. This is the main focus of the story as the narrative explores the interactions of Europeans and the Pacific natives through an interesting plot line that was unexpected and which I enjoyed. 

This was an interesting and enjoyable read and particularly if you are looking for something with a different twist recommended.

The Battle of All the AgesI always look forward to a new instalment in the 'Journals of Matthew Quinton' by historian J. D. Davies as I always learn something new about the navies and history of the period. The latest instalment, The Battle of All the Ages, did not disappoint.

The book gets off to an action filled start with Matthew and his crew in the thick of the fighting during the The Four Days' Battle of 1666, a drawn out and fierce action of the Anglo-Dutch wars and a defeat for the English fleet. The Captain's of the typical 'Napoleonic' novel tend to be a Nelson character from more humble beginnings yet in this earlier era Quinton is a courtier and heir to an Earldom. Even so Davies has created a very believable and likeable character who you can empathise with. 

As I have said before the navies of the 1660's were very different so it is not surprising that after his return from the battle at the whim of the King Matthew finds himself with a senior rank in an early incarnation of the Royal marines and on his way to Plymouth to root out the source of the false intelligence that caused the division of the English fleet before the battle and many lives.

After the conclusion of this mission Matthew returns to his ship to find that in an astonishing feat by the standards of the time has taken place and the shattered fleet has been repaired in just seven weeks. This enables the book to finish as it started with a climactic battle, in this case the one known as the St. James's Day fight.

As always Davies uses his historical accuracy to bring to life the events of these two great battles and the political intrigue of the period when allegiances and enmities were not as clear cut as in later periods.

The Torrid ZoneWith a worn out ship in desperate need of a refit Banks and his crew expect some leave. Instead they find themselves en route to St Helena with a cargo of gold and the New Governor, his wife and staff as passengers. The voyage does not go well when they encounter a powerful French Squadron which leaves Banks with some difficult choices to make.

Unfortunately the Governor is killed in the ensuing action and Banks has to deal with an enraged and politically influential widow. When he arrives on the island the French are still in the offing, a threat which he must deal with before the arrival of a rich East India convoy.

The book gives a good insight into life on the remote outpost of St Helena and is was refreshing to see it feature in a book which is not about Bonaparte's later exile there. As usual with Bond the work follows the daily lives of not just the officers but also the crew which this time includes a murderous seaman.

A good mix of naval action at sea and political intrigue on land woven into a well written and hard to put down plot. Highly recommended.

The Torrid ZoneOriginally published on the The Old Salt Blog

In The Torrid Zone, Alaric Bond's latest novel in his Fighting Sail Series, HMS Scylla is due to return to England. Her crew is weary and the ship is in serious need of a refit. Yet, as soon as the ship reaches home waters, she is dispatched to St. Helena, a tiny island in the distant South Atlantic, with a cargo of East India Company gold and the new island governor, his wife and servants as passengers. What should be a simple mission becomes very complicated and dangerous with the arrival of a French squadron, brutal weather, a reckless diplomat, an enraged widow, and a murderous seaman — all set against the backdrop of one of the most beautiful and remote islands
in the world.

For newcomers, Bond's Fighting Sail Series is refreshingly rather different from conventional nautical fiction whose focus is on a single heroic character, usually the captain. The series features multiple characters and points of view which vividly capture the life aboard a Royal Navy man-of-war, from the lower decks to the captain's cabin. For fans of the series, it is great becoming reacquainted with the officers and crew of HMS Scylla once again. The choice of St. Helena is also a good one, because while important in history, the waters are a bit less well sailed in nautical fiction.

© 2008-2016 David Hayes (Astrodene)