AOS Book Reviews


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

Richard Spilman Review: The Torrid Zone by Alaric Bond

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.

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Review: The Wrath of Brotherhood by Ozgur K. Sahin

The Wrath of BrotherhoodFor fans of pirate fiction there is a worthy new addition to the genre from Ozgur K. Sahin, The Wrath of Brotherhood. Set in the Caribbean at the time of the Restoration, the book, which is the first of a new series, introduces us to Captain Roy Toppings an English gentleman bent on revenge for the death of his sister for which he blames the Spanish.

Roy and his first mate, an ex-slave, recruit a crew of local men and a native South American, later enhanced by some dutchmen, and set out to plunder Spanish possessions and shipping, but as he uncovers their invasion plot he must unite with other English ships to counter the threat.

The book had a well written plot featuring both land and sea action and I particularly enjoyed the unusual mix of characters the author created. It held my attention well and I look forward to reading of their further adventures.


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Review: Commodore Levy by Irving Litvag

Commodore LevyOn the European side of the Atlantic Uriah Phillips Levy is not a name that springs to mind when thinking of famous American naval officers, in deed I had never heard of him. That is a deficiency I have now rectified by reading Commodore Levy: A Novel of Early America in the Age of Sail, a fictionalised biography of his life.

Brought up in the Jewish faith Levy went to sea as a cabin boy aged ten and quickly rose to be an officer. A patriot he joined the Navy during the War of 1812 as a Master on the Argus until he was captured. He was promoted Lieutenant in 1817 which saw the start of his problems. As a 'tarpaulin' officer and a Jew many officers took it upon themselves to try and end his career, a thread that was to continue as he rose through the ranks. He fought many court martial's but eventually achieved an appointment commanding the Mediterranean squadron.

As a respected member of the New York Jewish community he also invested in property amassing a personal fortune and becoming a noted philanthropist.

At over 600 pages this is a large book for a novel but I found it very engaging and hard to put down. The standard is such that it could easily be used as a scholarly work for those interested in Levy's life and career and his story was so interesting that the book is highly recommended reading.

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Review: The Threat in the East by Roger Burnage

The Threat in the EastThe Threat in the East, the third book in the 'The Merriman Chronicles', sees Merriman and his ship Lord Stevenage heading for Bombay and India where local potentates are building ships to threaten British interests and possibly link up with Napoleon's invasion of Egypt.

The novel spends less time ashore than previous offerings as Merriman takes the ships of the Honorable East India Company's Marine under his command and sets out on a series of raids to destroy the enemies forces.

The now familiar mix of naval action and espionage is as always brought together in a fast paced well written  narrative.

This book and the series as a whole is recommended.

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Review: Merriman and the French Invasion by Roger Burnage

Merriman and the French InvasionWhen I reviewed the first book in 'The Merriman Chronicles', A Certain Threat, I said "if subsequent books keep up this standard it will be a good one." I was not disappointed. The second book, Merriman and the French Invasion, as the title implies is about an attempted invasion, in this case of Ireland. There is a mixture of shipboard and shore action with a continuation of the espionage sub plot introduced in the first book. To this is added some personal treachery.

Merriman and his crew find themselves virtually unsupported as they defend the coast if Ireland against the plans of an arch enemy they have fought previously.

The mixture of familiar & new characters were well rounded as before in another well paced narrative. Although much of the action takes place ashore the book fits the genre well and I look forward to seeing what future adventures will reveal.


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Review: Mean Sun by Gerry Garibaldi

Mean SunMean Sun is the first book in a new series by Gerry Garibaldi that follows the adventures of Daniel Wren. After he is caught by the press and taken aboard a navy vessel destined for a voyage to the far east he soon finds himself under the watchful eye of the master who takes an interest in his advancement. 

The book has a well written and fast paced plot which was hard to put down. The depictions of life at sea and the action were well written and I will certainly look out for the sequel. On a slight negative note the book could do with some editing. There are some obvious errors such as the name of the principal vessel changing at one stage which should have been picked up and officianados of the genre will also spot some more technical instances however on balance they did not affect my enjoyment of the story. 


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