A young British officer takes to the high seas in this seafaring adventure circa 1793.
Debut novelist Russell delves deep into the oceans popularized by Patrick O’Brian to launch a new series about his own budding Master and Commander. The author’s classically flavored adventure tale is slow to get moving, but ultimately the book’s resourceful, conflicted hero carries the day. This book is set during the glory years of the British Navy leading up to the Napoleonic Wars, and its leading man is Lieutenant Charles Hayden, a rising officer in a growing British fleet in desperate conflict with France. Though his military record is sound, he finds it difficult to gain trust owing to his complicated lineage—a French mother and an American father do not suggest a loyal servant to Queen and country. Nevertheless, Hayden’s Francophone talents and resolute spirit are both put to the test during his first assignment. He is assigned to the Themis, a newly built vessel that has been spoiled by its self-indulgent master. Captain Hart is a corpulent hack with political connections who has strong compulsions for both rum and the lash. In addition to his regular duties, Hayden must temper Hart’s unbalanced leadership, take the measure of the rogues and misfits under his command and keep an eye out for a murderous mutineer who lurks among the men. The young lieutenant must also whip the crew into fighting shape to take on the French privateers gunning for his ship’s hull and somehow follow the maniacal orders of his cowardly captain, including a poorly thought-out and potentially deadly incursion into enemy territory. This tale of the Age of Sail is a bit languid in places, owing chiefly to its historical richness, but it finds its wind soon enough.
A colorful account of duty and honor, punctuated by the cannonade of naval warfare.