AOS Book Reviews


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

Active's MeasureWith its main protagonist a Royal Marine officer, Active's Measure will be welcomed by many looking for a different slant on Napoleonic Nautical Fiction. And a breathless pace is set from the start, with numerous characters and a fair amount of back story being introduced as a British landing party go in to attack a far superior French force.

The battle scenes are brutally realistic; I might even have wished for rather less detail at times, although none of the violence is in any way gratuitous. Besides, this is a story about men at war, with no place for sugar coating. Some may wish for a little more basic plotting, especially in the initial chapters, but if the need is for an action packed page turner, then Active's Measure will not disappoint.

In brief, Mr Danielski has produced a very readable book, with strong characters that catch the imagination. The story is well told, and there is every reason to expect this to develop into a good series.

The Sailing MasterIn this first book of his new series, The Sailing Master, Lee Henschel Jr. sets the scene for it's future as an ageing Sailing Master recounts his early career aboard his uncle's ship. When family finances are strained following the death of his mother young Owen Harriet is sent off to join Captain James Cedric as Cabin boy aboard HMS Eleanor where his ability with mathematics results in the Sailing Master training him. His abilities also arouse the interest of a diplomatic passenger resulting in a special mission as well as the less welcome attentions of some inimical characters aboard.

This was a well written book which had a good pace and well developed characters which I enjoyed. I do not recall another book that uses the route of a cabin boy as the entry to a series, and this is a proper cabin boy not just a convenience for the ships books to get an extra Midshipman aboard, and the concept of following the career of a Sailing Master rather than a commissioned officer is also new and something I look forward to seeing developed in later books.

The mention of the Sukiyama in the cover description perhaps leads to a question of whether there is a fantasy element to this book which is not really the case.


The Threat in the BalticThe Threat in the Baltic continues the story of James Merriman's career, now in command of the frigate Lord Stevenage. A treaty between the Baltic States threatens to cut off vital supplies for the navy so  Grahame to check the defences of Copenhagen and naval preparedness in the region.

Back at the Admiralty he reports his findings and meets Admiral Horatio Nelson who asks for him to be part of the Baltic fleet. As a result he is present at the battle of Copenhagen. He is then ordered further into the Baltic to find a French ship of the line.

This book familiar mix of naval action and espionage with well rounded characters but in places the narrative continues to seem a bit sparse. Also some modern terms which do not fit the period, such as sending the crew to Action Station rather than Quarters have started to creep in. If you are enjoying the series it is worth continuing with this one.

HMS PrometheusFollowing her action against the French (see The Scent of Corruption) HMS Prometheus is repaired at Gibraltar and sent into the Mediterranean to join Nelson's fleet blockading Toulon. Damaged in an action she is soon heading back to Gibraltar taking a prize on the way. Repaired once again she heads back to Toulon but encounters a powerful French squadron.

There is plenty of action in the narrative with challenges and life changing consequences for Bond's mixture of old, new and returning characters. A well written plot with a good pace that is hard to put down.

Another excellent read from one of the best contemporary naval fiction authors. Highly recommended.

Uncommon ValourUncommon Valour is an omnibus of two books about a family of colonial naval officers and merchant shippers and a Royal Navy captain and how their lives intertwine during the conflicts of the American struggle for independence. As it is two volumes I shall review each seperately below.

The Frigate Captain

This book follows the life of John Sinclair a senior and well respected captain in the Royal Navy who, with the frigate Sapphire, has been sent to New  York, and the lives of the Mason family, part of which in the form of Commander William Mason is heading to England with a captured French Spy. Their ships meet in the North Atlantic and thier lives become inextricably linked with John destined to fall in love with William's sister.

It is a story of Naval officers, their wives, a family of colonial merchant shippers, espionage and romance. There are good well rounded characters including some strong female ones. It must be said that a large proportion is land based but that did not detract from a well written plot that came together well as the focus switched between the diary entries of various characters.

Brewer's Luck: Hornblower's LegacyBrewer's Luck seeks to continue C. S. Forester's famous series by following the adventures of a protégé, William Brewer. Appointed first lieutenant of HMS Defiant, with orders to join Hornblower in the West Indies, Brewer soon finds himself in command and tasked to deal with the pirate menace. Several of Forester's characters, including the famous admiral himself, put in an appearance, but there are also some well written characters devised by the author himself. There also seems to be a nod to Jack Aubrey with a broadside delivered from an unseen ship in fog.

Seeking to extend the work of such a famous writer sets expectations rather high which is difficult to achieve, but Brewer's Luck has a good plot line and some interesting characters that can be developed over time.

There are some well written storm and action sequences and good sub-plots featuring Defiant's original captain and a young third lieutenant but also some minor typos which should be edited out.

An enjoyable read.

© 2008-2016 David Hayes (Astrodene)