A DARKER SEA by James L. Haley


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After bringing his hero, Blivet Putnam, home to Connecticut following his navy career’s first action (The Shores of Tripoli, 2016, etc.), Haley promotes him to master commandant to captain the USS Tempest and fight the War of 1812.

Haley is an erudite historian who can craft fiction so real that you’re ready to pull the grapeshot-packed 18-pounder’s lanyard and sweep the HMS Java’s quarterdeck and kill a nefarious English lord. The plot’s simple—Putnam sails into harm’s way and has the Tempest shot from under him but later exacts professional—and personal—revenge while serving aboard the USS Constitution. All the while, Haley details extended battle scenes (warfare injuries in the days of wooden ships were particularly gruesome); examines the disparities in the ugly practices of English and American slavery; analyzes the involuntary servitude of impressment by chronicling Putnam’s rescue of his old friend and shipmate Sam Bandy from the HMS Hound; and provides insight into how those iron men constructed (live oak timber a necessity) and sailed those wooden ships. With the U.S. Navy then furloughing officers at partial pay when they weren't needed, Putnam returned to Connecticut after Tripoli and the Barbary Pirates to marry Clarity Marsh. That caused tongues to wag as the Marshes were high-society, moneyed folk, but Putnam went on to help his elderly parents re-establish the Putnam farm in good order. Then Putnam’s called up again, goes to Washington for orders, and from there sets off on a fast-paced Caribbean seafaring narrative filled with empathetic fictional characters. The story also brings in real-life historical figures, like James and Dolley Madison, or names to be reckoned with later, like a precocious girl named Harriet Beecher.

Another real-enough-to-be-true, rollicking tale from the days of sail and sword.

Pub Date: Nov. 14th, 2017
ISBN: 978-0-399-17111-6
Page count: 400pp
Publisher: Putnam
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1st, 2017


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