Originally published on the The Old Salt Blog
Alaric Bond’s Jackass Frigate is comfortable and familiar while managing to be fresh and distinctive at the same time, not an easy trick to pull off. More than anything else, it is simply fun to read. I picked it up and literally had a hard time putting it down. While that may be a cliché, in my case, it was indeed true.
Virtually every work of naval fiction since Marryatt has followed a young officer; whether as midshipman, lieutenant, captain or admiral. Jackass Frigate is different. Bond uses a wide range of characters and perspectives from the gun deck, to the cockpit, to the quarterdeck. Eighteenth century men-of-war were the most complex, technologically advanced machines of their day, requiring a wide range of skills and abilities to function It took far more than the officers on the quarterdeck to sail and to fight. Jackass Frigate gives the reader a glimpse at the ship in action, from top to bottom.
Bond gives voice to topmen, gunners, surgeon’s mates, landsmen and idlers, as well as to the midshipmen, lieutenants, the master and, of course, the captain. The danger to this approach is that the voices can become jumbled, which to Bond’s credit somehow doesn’t happen. He has the enviable skill of making each sufficiently distinctive to stand out while under way or in the heat of battle. The shift between the various voices and perspectives is remarkably smooth and seamless.
Jackass Frigate follows the newly fitted out HMS Pandora from her maiden voyage to join the Mediterranean fleet in 1796 to the battle of Cape St. Vincent. Along the way, the captain and crew they find themselves surrounded by a French fleet, the First Lieutenant is murdered, rumors spread of a specter aboard ship, and they must fight in desperate single ship combat and assist in a brutal fleet battle. We also rub elbows with Admiral Jarvis and a young Commodore Nelson.
Lively, fast paced, and cinematic in scope, Jackass Frigate is a truly entertaining read.
Description of: The Jackass Frigate
Author: Alaric Bond