ME Book Reviews

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

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Britannia's SpartanBritannia's Spartan by Antoine Vanner continues the adventures of Commander Nicholas Dawlish, serving in the Royal Navy as the Victorian Era draws to a close. Newly promoted to Captain and command of the navy's newest cruiser, HMS Leonidas, he is ordered to the Far East on what should be a routine voyage to test her capabilities, becoming the first RN warship to complete the round trip by steam alone.

On arrival orders are changed and he is sent on a diplomatic mission to Korea where Chinese influence is on the wane, a rapidly modernising Japan is seeking to fill the void and Britain needs allies against Russian expansion.

Dawlish soon finds himself having to make some hard decisions as to what would be in Britain's interest as war between the regional powers threatens to break out.

Plenty of action follows both on land and at sea in what was a well written novel with a good plot that flowed smoothly holding my attention well. I continue to enjoy Dawlish's adventures for their insights into how the Navy handled the transition to steam vessels, their powerful weapons and innovations such as torpedos. I look forward to reading more.

Both this book and the series as a whole are highy recommended.

Britannia's SharkBritannia's Shark by Antoine Vanner continues the adventures of Commander Nicholas Dawlish, serving in the Royal Navy as the Victorian Era draws to a close. The series so far has explored the Turkish Navy and river conflict in Paraguay and this time we move to conflict with the Finian movement for Irish independance and their involvement with John Philip Holland who invented the first practical submarine.

The Finian's are a threat to British interests but as they are operating in the US diplomatic neccessity means that no overt action can be taken. Dawlish soon finds himself headed for New York undercover with orders to stop them using the submarine against Britain. When he is unsuccesful he must follow them to Cuba and aid the revolutionaries to complete his mission.

This was an interesting read for it's insights into both early submarine development and the situation in Cuba at the time.

As is now to be expected from Vanner this was a well written novel with a good plot that flowed smoothly holding my attention well. I continue to enjoy Dawlish's adventures for their insights into the naval matters at this time and look forward to reading more. Both this book and the series as a whole are highy recommended.

HMS WaspHMS Wasp by Peter J. Holloway follows Ted Harris and his period of National Service aboard a small sloop in the Caribbean. He works in the electrical department where he is mentored by a Chief Petty Officer he comes to admire. As you might expect of a young man experiencing life abroad for the first time he also has some interesting experiences during his periods of shore leave.

The book is set shortly after the end of the Korean War and just before the Navy begins to contract as the far flung parts of Empire gain their independence and it therefore reflects what might be described as the end of an era.

This is a time of peace and 'showing the flag' visits so don't expect any action but it is a well written novel with believable characters that held my attention well. It gave a good insight into the life of an ordinary seaman and National Serviceman and how they were matured by the process.

I enjoyed reading HMS Wasp and the book is recommended reading.

Britannia's ReachBritannia's Reach by Antoine Vanner is the second book in this new series set during the early years of the Royal Navy's conversion to a steam powered iron fleet. Dawlish is again seconded, this time to a private corporation in South America.

There were several wars involving early steam vessels on the vast rivers of South America and the plot of this book enables the author to explore that area of naval warfare. Dawlish is given leave so he can head up the naval forces of the 'consortium' which has lost control of it's productive land to an uprising.

Cooperation with the mercenaries of the land forces and the civilian leaders of the expedition do not go well at first and Dawlish is blamed for some early failures, however the power of the naval forces under his command are the only way of achieving a breakthrough and his plans are eventually accepted.

Once again this is a well written novel with a good plot that flowed smoothly holding my attention well. Although it is not set in the Age of Sail I enjoy Dawlish's adventures and look forward to reading more. Recommended.

Britannia's WolfBritannia's Wolf by Antoine Vanner is set during the Russo-Turkish War of 1877. Perhaps unusually for the first book in a new series about the Royal Navy, The Dawlish Chronicles, the entire book is spent with the principal character seconded to a foreign power, Turkey, but this worked well.

Dawlish has to retake his future command from a rebellious Turk, but he is soon in command of an ironclad and, despite the language and cultural difficulties, getting the ship ready for sea and bringing some esprit de corps to it's crew. Throughout the book there are some well written action scenes both at sea and ashore as Dawlish and his men seek to stem the relentless Russian advances despite some of the political intriguing that was expected in the levant at the time. The rivalries that started this war are ones that still echo through to modern times and as I have not studied this period before it was a pleasure to read about the origins of these conflicts. However, be warned that at the time little concern was showed for civilians and the narrative graphically brings to life some of the atrocities that marked this conflict.

There is a lot to this well written novel which is of a good standard for a self published work and the text flowed smoothly holding my attention well. Although it is not set in the Age of Sail will I want to read more of Dawlish's adventures? Yes I will. Recommended.

© 2008-2017 David Hayes (Astrodene)