Thursday, 22 October 2009

HISTORICAL FICTION REVIEW: The Gathering Storm - Peter Smalley


Spring 1791. Though deeply disturbed by a terrible incident during his previous commission, James Hayter is nevertheless on the verge of taking command of HMS Sloop Eglantine as Master and Commander when personal tragedy shatters his life. The twin blows convince Hayter that he is not fit to command and he must turn his back on the sea forever. Even the intervention of his friend and former captain, William Rennie cannot not dissuade him from derelicting his duty. Though repenting in the end of his decision, Hayter's career in the Navy appears to be over until the intervention of an agent, Mr Brough Mappin, working for Hayter's old nemesis, the British Secret Service Fund. Mappin's plan offers Hayter a chance to revive his career on a special mission, with the promise of reinstatement in the Royal Naval List if he is successful. But it is also the single most dangerous mission of his life. He must sail for France with Rennie in HMS Expedient and there rescue some persons of interest from the grasp of the French Revolutionary forces searching for them. What no one mentions is that the rescue will bring to bear on Expedient and her crew, a force so fierce and mighty that, if it can, it will wipe all trace of the incident, Hayter and the ship from the memory of everyone involved in the forthcoming struggle.


To be honest I’m not the biggest fan of a lot of the more modern Historical Fictions so when this tale landed I put it off for a while until I felt that I had very little choice other than to get on with it. That said however, I did get through it pretty quick and whilst I didn’t think it was the best example of the Sea-Faring Fiction that’s out there (you’ll have a tough job getting past O’Brian) it was acceptable and did do what the book promised. The characters were individuals and whilst each sought out their own goals it did feel that at times they were hard pressed to have reason’s for doing some of the things that they did. It is a reasonable book, it was readable but its not one that makes you sit up and pay attention and, if you’ll pardon the pun, is a title that will slip through the waves, to sit calmly on the shelves waiting to grab a passerby.

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