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

Review: The Blast That Tears the Skies by J. D. Davies

The Blast That Tears the SkiesI was pleased when The Blast That Tears the Skies arrived as it meant I would soon know a lot more about the history of Restoration England through the continuing 'Journals of Matthew Quinton'.

When you are used to a diet of fiction about the navies of the Napoleonic wars getting a view of a different period when their foundations were being laid is always refreshing. The navies of the 1660's were very different with courtiers rather than professional sailors making command decisions and as the second Anglo-Dutch war starts the heir to the throne himself is at sea in command and old suspicions between cavaliers and parliamentarians are still rife. Davies weaves all this skillfully into a book which climaxes with the Battle of Lowestoft where over 200 English and Dutch ships engaged in what was the largest naval battle ever fought at the time. This is the first fleet action depicted by the author and it was very well done.

The naval action is woven into a second plot thread which covers both political and court intrigues at a time when the King rather than parliament exercised power and uncovers more of the history of the Quinton family. Protestant England is now going to War with the Protestant Dutch, who are riven with internal tensions between the constituent provinces, and all the while Catholic France is plotting for its own interests. This is all complicated by friendships and marriages from the period when the court was in exile and all takes place while the population of London is being decimated by the Great Plague.

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Julian Mackrell Review: This Wonderful Year by Mark E. Benno

This Wonderful YearGeorgian HNF with a difference: This Wonderful Year's principal subject is not a sailor and is never likely to be. Indeed, that Edward Pamprill begins the book as a pampered rich kid and ends it taking his place in the House of Lords, did not fill me with much enthusiasm for reading of his exploits, nor sympathy for his plight. And yet ...

... and yet, this is one of the most charming HNF novels I have had the pleasure to read. Benno writes with a fine feel for period detail, concentrating on characterisation while allowing his plot to evolve steadily at a relatively sedate pace, a virtually day-by-day approach that will likely resonate with lovers of Patrick O'Brian. Much of the action takes place ashore, and Pamprill is a landsman, so This Wonderful Year has few naval technicalities; some of his "landsman's howlers" [eg "the big pole in the middle"] are refreshing and mildly humorous.

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Julian Mackrell Review: The Prodigal by S. K. Keogh

The ProdigalWith solid plot lines and multi-dimensional characterizations, S K Keogh's first novel is a definite winner. Set mostly afloat in the Caribbean during the 'age of sail' it weaves several threads into an engrossing story that will be satisfying to lovers of historic sail fiction without being unduly technical for a casual reader. The author has created a believable world inhabited by a fascinating, disparate bunch of lead characters who command the reader's sympathy despite their darker sides.

No real surprises plot-wise perhaps, but it is a good story well told. You can't have a pirate novel without at least some swash-buckling, but most of the plot is concerned with situation and character development leading to a climactic showdown with a sting in its tail! In my opinion, Keogh has the balance just right and I was so enthralled that I was unprepared for the end, but it has clearly been set up for a sequel. Can't wait!

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Review: A Ship for the King by Richard Woodman

A Ship for the KingThis is the first book in a new series by Richard Woodman, and for those that have read his Nathaniel Drinkwater series the style has a familiar feel particularly as the insights into the workings of Trinity House are a common factor.

The new principal character is Kit Faulkner, first introduced to us as an orphaned quayside waif in the reign of James I. This choice of period, as Kit's career through to the English Civil War is explored, sets the series apart, as it is the first time it has been explored by a major naval fiction series.

The insights into the Navy of the period are fascinating. This was the period when the foundations of the Navy that fought the Dutch during the Anglo/Dutch Wars and became familiar through the many novels about the Nelsonian period were being laid down which makes it of particular interest.

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Roger Marsh Review: HMS Warrior - Ironclad

HMS Warrior - IroncladThis is one of the first books published in Seaforth's own 'Historic Ships' series, the other volume published alongside it during 2011 having been on the subject of HMS Victory. The publisher's aim in this series is to guide the reader on a superbly illustrated tour of a ship from bow to stern, from keel to masthead and deck-by-deck.

Visually, they have certainly succeeded in no uncertain fashion. Geoff Dennison's photography is indeed superb, both above and below decks as well as outside the ship, and the reproduction does his work justice, printed in high quality on excellent paper even though this is, nominally, a paperback. Beginning with an account of the ship's concept, design, history and preservation, the feast of Geoff Dennison's pictorial tour starts on page 30, after some fine introductory illustrations, and continues through to the end of the book on p. 128.

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Review: Napoleon's Gold by Mark M. McMillin

Napoleon's GoldIn this third instalment of the adventures of Captain Luke Ryan the historical records on which the series is based have run out and the author gives free reign to his imagination to fill in a plausible history for the continued adventures of his characters. He set himself a difficult task in choosing to cover a lengthy period from the end of the fight for American Independence through to the end of the Napoleonic Wars.

As before the Irishmen spend much of their time based in France but this time operating in the Mediterranean. As the title indicates Ryans exploits become involved with Napoleon Bonaparte and we see some of his career from a new perspective with an interesting possible explanation of how he returned to France after the Egyptian campaign.

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