Monday, March 22, 2010

Sloop of War - Alexander Kent

"Like a raked black finger the sloops long jib-boom swept out and over his head, and for a few more moments he stared up at the figurehead below the bowsprit. A man-size sparrow, beak wide in fury and wings spread as if to fight, its curved claws firmly gripping a gilded cluster of oak leaves and acorns. Bolitho watched until the boat had moved around and under the starboard cathead. He had never thought a mere sparrow could be depicted as being so warlike."

It's 1778 and Richard Bolitho has just been given his first command as captain of the sloop "Sparrow". The American Revolutionary War is in full swing and their French allies are eager to antagonize the Royal Navy. Bolitho revels in his fast, well-armed ship, hunting privateers and the French while patrolling the Atlantic coast. But he must contend with Tyrell, a first lieutenant who is an American loyalist and a senior officer consumed with gaining personal power and glory, no matter whom he must put in harm's way. Amidst the cannonfire and bloodshed, Bolitho also manages to develop a relationship with an aristocratic lady that may be more than she seems.

Kent addresses past events previous to the book, creating a larger world beyond the book and allowing readers to get a better idea of Bolitho's character and attitude towards his crew. "Sloop of War" also reads perfectly well as a stand-alone novel.

As always, Kent's description and character developement are top notch. We not only get to experience Bolitho as a leader, we also see the world from first lieutenant Tyrell's eyes. While his fellow countrymen are fighting King George, Tyrell has remained loyal to the crown, making him despised by one side and mistrusted by the other. Caught in the lonely in between as an officer of his majesty, all he can do is follow orders and try not to get killed.

One part I took guity pleasure in involved Kent speaking well of some Canadian scouts brought along to aid Bolitho. I couldn't help but grin when Foley says, "Good men. If I had a regiment of them I could retake half of America."

This book is action-packed, fast-paced, filled with battles on both land and sea and is a great addition to the Bolitho series. This is a great place to start for those interested in historical naval fiction.

Follow Richard in his next naval adventure in Enemy in Sight.

Rating: 4/5

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