Customer Reviews


81 Reviews
5 star:
 (38)
4 star:
 (22)
3 star:
 (8)
2 star:
 (6)
1 star:
 (7)
 
 
 
 
 
Average Customer Review
Share your thoughts with other customers
Create your own review
 
 

The most helpful favourable review
The most helpful critical review


15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Charles Hayden III: the Glorious First of June. Also published as "Take, Burn or Destroy"
This is the third part of a sailing navy series featuring Charles Hayden. The first two were excellent: parts of this book were up to the same standard but others were not and I found it rather a curate's egg. The series to date consists of:

1) Under Enemy Colours
2) A Battle Won
3) This book, "A Ship of War" and NB this book has also been published...
Published on 16 July 2012 by Marshall Lord

versus
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Adventures with a bit of romance
The third book to feature Captain Charles Hayden, blessed/cursed with Anglo/French heritage so treated with suspicion by one side and considered a traitor by the other. Here Hayden is tasked with obtaining critical information from a spy and then having to avoid French ships before being captured, shipwrecked and then joining a fleet for a sea battle with the French...
Published on 10 April 2012 by Nick Brett


‹ Previous | 1 29 | Next ›
Most Helpful First | Newest First

11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Adventures with a bit of romance, 10 April 2012
By 
Nick Brett (Wiltshire, England) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: A Ship of War (Hardcover)
The third book to feature Captain Charles Hayden, blessed/cursed with Anglo/French heritage so treated with suspicion by one side and considered a traitor by the other. Here Hayden is tasked with obtaining critical information from a spy and then having to avoid French ships before being captured, shipwrecked and then joining a fleet for a sea battle with the French. The author knows his stuff and it feels very authentic, if at times there is a little too much detail on the complexities of sails and rigging. The language, and sometimes the writing style, is not `modern' and takes some getting used to before you are swept into the story.

While we involve ourselves with Hayden's story, we also see estranged lady-friend Henrietta with her family and coping with an apparent betrayal by Hayden looks elsewhere for romance. I presume this element of the story was put there to give a more rounded view of the characters and what drives them, but the politics and intricacies of relationships and romance seemed at odds with what is basically a novel of high sea adventure.

It is probably the Henrietta storyline that, for me, pulls this back to three stars from four. But it is otherwise a well written and well researched novel.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Charles Hayden III: the Glorious First of June. Also published as "Take, Burn or Destroy", 16 July 2012
By 
Marshall Lord (Whitehaven, UK) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: A Ship of War (Hardcover)
This is the third part of a sailing navy series featuring Charles Hayden. The first two were excellent: parts of this book were up to the same standard but others were not and I found it rather a curate's egg. The series to date consists of:

1) Under Enemy Colours
2) A Battle Won
3) This book, "A Ship of War" and NB this book has also been published in the US as "Take, Burn or Destroy."
4) "Until the Sea Shall Give Up Her Dead (Charles Hayden 4)."

In the wake of the huge fleet of "fighting sail" novels, which brought to life such fictional sailors as Horatio Hornblower, Jack Aubrey, Richard Delancey, Nicholas Ramage, Richard Bolitho, Nathaniel Drinkwater, Thomas Kydd, William Rennie, and Kit Killigrew - not to mention the real historical officer Michael Fitton, whose remarkable career was novelised by Showell Styles - yet another hero of the age of fighting sail took to the quarterdeck in Sean Thomas Russell's first book, "Under Enemy Colours."

In the sequel "A Battle Won" and at the start of this book, Mr Russell put his half-English, half-French hero Charles Hayden, who has now been promoted to the rank of Commander, back in charge of the frigate H.M.S. Themis. Frigates were usually commanded by an officer of the rank of captain (Post captain in the nautical language of the time) but it was not unknown for a commander to be given a temporary appointment as commanding officer of a frigate in circumstances such as were described in the books.

At the start of this volume the hero is given two missions which may well prove incompatible, but this is only the start of his problems. Hayden and the crew of HMS Themis have to deal with spies, a French squadron, the challenge of escaping from the French in terrible weather which creates a serious risk for British and French sailors alike of being driven ashore and wrecked, and the possibility of capture - which for the half-French Hayden might mean the danger of being sent to the guillotine either as a traitor to France or as a British spy.

By the time this book concludes with our heroes taking part in a major naval battle - the "Glorious First of June" - which occurs much as it did in real history, Russell has fitted into the three books of this series just about everything which could happen to sailors in the 18th century navy, from battles at sea to battles on land in support of the army, from espionage on enemy soil to exchange of prisoners, from court-martials to cutting-out expeditions, from mutiny to murder, and from storm to shipwreck.

Meanwhile on land Henrietta, the lady whom Hayden had hoped to marry but who has been given reason to think (wrongly) that he has betrayed her, is being courted by a rival suitor. Large chunks of this book comprise a sub-plot about whether Henrietta will marry Charles or his rival.

Following in the footsteps of writers of the calibre of C.S. Forester, Patrick O'Brien, Dudley Pope and C. Northcote Parkinson is challenging. To make a new naval hero stand out from the mass of "fighting sail" books as Sean Thomas Russell did with the first two books in this series, was no mean feat. Like some of the best works of Forester, Pope, and O'Brien, the second book in this series, "A battle won," was not so much fiction as novelised history in which the characters the author created were seamlessly inserted into a dramatised account of real historical events.

The same applies to the best part of this book, the depiction of the "Glorious First of June" from Charles Hayden's perspective, which vividly recreates what the battle must have appeared like from the viewpoint of those who took part in it. Some of the other scenes at sea also skillfully blended drama and history. For example, a passage involving Sir Edward Pellew's HMS "Indefatigable" on which, of course, C.S. Forester's hero Mr Midshipman Hornblower served early in his career, explained with historical accuracy (and with more period detail than Forester gave) that the Indefatigable was a "razee" e.g. a former battleship with her original upper deck cut away to make a particularly powerful frigate. Russell describes clearly and elegantly what advantages that gave her.

Those were the good parts of this book, and for me it was worth reading for them. But unfortunately large chunks of the rest of this book did not work as well for me as the first two.

For example, though I cannot describe in full my concerns about an extended sea chase in the English Channel which appeared to have been inspired by a similar chase in C.S. Forester's novel Hornblower and the Hotspur for fear to giving too much of the story away, I had difficulty with the credibility of the situation described.

It isn't impossible that storm conditions in the English Channel could include the wind blowing for a lengthy period in the direction and force required to create the navigational problems which HMS Themis faces in this book. However, it would be rare. The prevailing wind in the English Channel blows from the West or South-West: the navigational problems faced by Hayden in this book would require a northerly wind to blow constantly for several days. And if the weather conditions described in this book did occur, the opposing forces would not be in a good position to chase or fire at one another because they'd have quite enough of a challenge avoiding being wrecked or capsizing, and because opening the gunports or firing broadsides would be dangerous and difficult.

Another problem I have with this book is a large amount of misleading commentary about 64-gun ships of the line. One of the warships described in this book is of that rating, which in the 1790s was the smallest type of ship considered able to take her place in the line of battle. There were three types of ship of the line at this time.

"First rates" had three gun decks and mounted a hundred or more cannon: they usually served as fleet flagships. "Second rate" ships also had three decks of guns but were slightly smaller than first rates and usually had ninety to 98 cannons. "Third rates" which formed most of the line of battle in all navies had two decks of guns and mounted a minimum of 64 cannon. By the 1790s the major navies were using 74-gun third rates to form the majority of their line of battle, but there were still a significant minority of 64 gun ships in service, including Nelson's first battleship command, HMS Agamemnon.

Obviously, 64-gun ships were slightly less powerful than 74-gun ships, and significantly less powerful than first and second rates with three decks of guns, though they made up for this to some extent by being significantly faster and more nimble.

The narrative of this book repeatedly states that the characters regard 64-gun ships as greatly inferior in battle to than other ships of the line, to a far greater degree than their historical deployment by Royal Navy captains and admirals suggests was believed by those officers at the time.

For example, Russell has both Hayden and Admiral Lord Howe, the British Commander in Chief at the "Glorious First of June," act as though a Royal Navy 64-gun ship could not face a French 74-gun ship on equal terms. If RN commanders had really been that cautious, the Napoleonic wars might have had a very different outcome! Russell also puts into the mouths or thoughts of his characters in more than one passage of this book the suggestion that a single broadside from a 100+ gun first rate could knock a 64-gun ship out of a battle.

While it was not entirely unknown for one particularly effective broadside to cripple an enemy ship, this was unusual. It usually took quite a few broadsides to knock out any ship of the line, including the smaller ones.

In reality, Royal Navy 64-gun ships not only took their place in the line of battle during the Napoleonic wars, but often acquitted themselves well against much larger enemy ships. For example, at the battle of Trafalgar, the 64 gun HMS Agamemnon which had previously been Nelson's ship, not only exchanged broadsides with the largest warship in the world at that time, the Spanish four-decker Santimissa Trinidad, but brought down some of the giant Spanish battleship's masts and thus played a major role in her capture!

Moving on from the sea battles, I also felt that the actions of some of the characters in this book did not seem plausible. In particular, the extended scenes with Henrietta and her family and suitors, which seemed to have been lifted from a poor quality Regency Romance, didn't work for me. Mr Russell seems to be better at channelling C.S. Forester than he is at channelling Jane Austen!

I really enjoyed both the first two books in this trilogy and can recommend them: overall I don't regret reading "A ship of war" because it continued the story and it had certain passages which were excellent. At the time of updating this review I am about to read the fourth book in the series: I hope Mr Russell's future books are closer to "A Battle Won" or in quality than to this one.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


3.0 out of 5 stars Spirited reading, 11 Mar. 2014
This is the third outing for Lt Charles Hayden and my least favourite so far.

He is such a promising character, a bright, talented and ambitious naval officer who has no influential friends and therefore does not get on as well as he should. Unfortunately, the Hayden of this book is losing his way rather and becoming, dare I say it, a bit dull. The author has made Hayden more fallible, which is a good thing because no-one could be right all the time. However, he spends most of this book pining for his love Henrietta and the adventures at sea come a poor second to events on shore. There are no encounters with senior officers, friendly to him or otherwise, and even Mr Stephens of the Admiralty makes no appearance. There is, however, a lot of time with Henrietta and her family and Hayden's possible rival in love while Hayden himself is away at sea. The consequences of the confusion left at the end of book 2 are played out in detail.

There is hardly any naval adventure and for much of the time Hayden's ship seems to be becalmed and perhaps the same can be said for the plot.

I listen to these novels for the adventure side of things and the will-they-won't they romance strand was pitched just right in the two earlier novels. If you are interested in Henrietta's story then you may engage with this book more than I did but it seemed to me that she became less not more interesting as the novel went on.

Nick Boulton's reading was as good as ever and his characterisation is excellent. Sadly, I felt this book did not give him enough to work with, unlike the first two.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


4.0 out of 5 stars Charles Hayden 3!, 21 Jun. 2013
By 
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
I don't know why Amazon persists in describing this as 'Charles Hayden 1', when it is the third book in the series.
Comparisons with other Napoleonic seafaring yarns are inevitable, but as an avid reader of such stories, I prefer to take each series on its own merits and I try to avoid thinking "That bit is straight out of Patrick O'Brien" and so on, as no author could hope to avoid a certain similarity; they are, after all, essentially books about the same thing, and a certain formula is pretty much inevitable, if not mandatory.
Russell's descriptions of life at sea are excellent. In his storms you can taste the salt spray and feel the rain lashing your face. His battle scenes are vivid, exciting, powerful and tragic. The leading characters are by now very well developed. None are perfect 'hero types'. Even Hayden, with his talent for finding out the enemy and his peerless sense of duty and honour, is plagued with doubts about his decisions and feels the weight of command very heavy upon his shoulders.
In this episode we find Hayden and the crew of the Themis in dire straights, being hotly pursued by a French squadron in filthy weather. Charged with bearing vital intelligence to England with all haste, he cannot resist when a French frigate is sighted. He is once again keen to avoid any suggestion of shyness and pays the price.
The battle, storm and chase scenes are interspersed with starkly contrasting scenes of a comfortable English country estate in early summer, where his estranged love is spending time with her family, getting over Hayden's alleged betrayal. Unknown to Hayden, he has a rival for Henrietta's affections...
Russell plays these contrasting worlds very well. Just when the reader needs a break from holding his breath as Hayden and crew face certain death, we are we whisked to a comfy drawing room where Henrietta and her sisters play out their own little drama. Just before the reader begins to think "OK, I've read enough 'Pride and Prejudice' stuff now, we are back at sea, facing the angry French, intent on our destruction, and an angry sea, with similar ideas.
I suspect this is a lesson learned from Patrick O'Brien, who devoted almost an entire book (Post Captain) to domestic affairs and almost put me off reading any more. (I thank God I persisted).
I have rambled on enough. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and the others in the series and look forward to the next. They are very well written, full of excitement and great characters. I heartily recommend this excellent series.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


2.0 out of 5 stars Tar or feathers?, 11 Feb. 2014
Having read other reviews, I will preface mine by saying that as a non-Napoleonic nautical nerd, I am quite content in my ignorance and will gullibly accept any number of obscure sails, supported by improbable rigging, filled with winds which come from an unlikely quarter. I am not reading the book as revision for my sailing proficiency badge, I just want to be entertained - as I was by the first two books in this series. This one, however, was a disappointment and left me feeling a bit cheated.

I do feel that STR has been let down by his editor, in being permitted to indulge his latent Austen tendencies to the detriment of the narrative. As soon as the author was allowed to stray beyond Hayden's immediate environment, which he had not done before, the plot sprang a significant leak. Comparisons are inevitable and I cannot help wondering if other authors in this genre would not have presented Henrietta's situation as a fait accompli, when the reader returned to England with Hayden - other devices being used to explain how she arrived there. It is a pity when there are alternative areas upon which STR might have lavished space: the press gangs or Admiralty machinations, to name but two, that I was made to suffer pages and pages of Georgian social angst.

The author, on his web page, promises a fourth book; hopefully he is making a wise choice regarding which type of stays will dominate the text. I will wait until it appears for 0.01p to find out.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


5.0 out of 5 stars Love it!!!, 28 Dec. 2014
By 
M. Hatch "Michael - Avid Historical Fiction R... (West Lothian, Scotland) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
So I read many of the other reviews before getting this on the kindle I received as a Christmas gift and now, having finished it, I am wondering what exactly so many people had issues with.

I could not put this one down. The Henrietta cutaways did not detract from the story for me in any way whatsoever. They added to it. The tension builds as Hayden was often left in some peril and if you are an active reader like I am, you are left with your heart in your mouth and the pulse speeds up as you realise you are not going to find out what happened just yet. While you read the Henrietta parts you get sucked into the complicated situation wondering how a returned Hayden will fit in to the life of the Carthew's and this distracts you slightly before launching you headfirst, back into danger.

It's a bugbear of mine that so many people moan about additional aspects being included in stories. It's like they never understand the idea that a good novel sticks within its main genre, a great novel pushes the boundaries, crosses those borders for a foray, and then comes back again. Sean Thomas Russell was trying something new to the Hayden series here (but not new to fiction in general) and I applaud him for it, as well as encourage much more experimentation, this was a pleasure to read and at 1am it told me there's only a few dozen, or so, pages left, so I stayed and I finished it.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


3.0 out of 5 stars A Fair Yarn, 16 May 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
As an avid reader of historic fiction, particularly from the Napoleonic era I've read all of the great Napoleonic naval fiction greats such as O'Brian and Forrester and so on. I don't think Russell can be compared to O'Brian, in fact I believe it's a unfair comparison. To compare a fairly new author to someone like O'Brian who more or less dedicated his life to naval historical writing and research. I was impressed with the Russell's first two books and was eagerly waiting for the next instalment to be published. I was disappointed. In fact I gave up after reading the first half and read something else. However, I hate to leave a book half read so I decided to carry on and enjoyed the second part of the book. A weak beginning but a very strong finish. I think at times Russell forgets Naval decorum of the time. For example, a junior post captain would not exchange witty and comical remarks with his junior officers on the quarterdeck. Also your regular `jack tar' would not be addressing the captain as if he were a personal friend. Also, for a captain that has just made his post with less than 3 years seniority I highly doubt that the admiralty would give him Frigate never mind a 64 gun ship! Overall a good read!
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


3.0 out of 5 stars the segment devoted to Hayden's romance is laboured and detracts from the novel (I like to think that this isn't simply because, 10 Aug. 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Agree with other reviewers, the segment devoted to Hayden's romance is laboured and detracts from the novel (I like to think that this isn't simply because I'm an emotionally illiterate bloke who likes to read naval fiction, but that Mr Russell is trying to inject a bit of Jane Austen to improve the literary credibility of his chosen genre. I'm all for Hayden's character being developed and extended through whatever relationships, shipboard or landbased, that Mr Russell cares to throw at him, but I felt that there was just a bit too much of a disconnect here) I suspect that like other readers I'm still searching for a writer who can fill the void left by Patrick O Brien, STR feels like the closest yet, although he clearly does not have the weather gauge on POB. I'll still give the next volume a go though..
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


4.0 out of 5 stars High Sea Excitement, 28 May 2012
By 
Gareth Wilson - Falcata Times Blog "Falcata T... - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: A Ship of War (Hardcover)
For me, Sean is one of these authors who does extremely well as turning his hand to multiple genre writing, always presenting a story that not only thrills but keeps you firmly within its fist from the first chapter onwards. As usual with his Historical Fiction the reader is transported back in time with the authors wonderful ability to bring the scenes to life with wonderful prose alongside an ability to almost have you feeling the sea breeze on your face.

It's got some wonderful twists, a great set of prose alongside a pace that is hard to live up to as each new elements wends its way into the readers imagination that makes it extremely difficult to put down. All in another great adventure and one that I loved from start to finish. Magic.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Steady as she goes!, 9 April 2012
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: A Ship of War (Hardcover)
I have just put this book down and is usual for me when I have finished a Charles Hayden adventure I am wishing I had another to pick up! Partly because, as is also usual, Russell leaves us a few untidy threads that must be picked up next volume but mainly because they are excellent!

Alert Minor plot synopsis!

In this installment we jion Hayden as he attempts to clear things up with Henrietta and his prize agent after being swindled by a french noble woman, we see him sent off to liaise with a spy make an ill fated escape bid from a french squadron, get involved in a shipwreck and still get back out on the water in time for the Glorious first of June!

End of alert

I thought this book differed slightly in style to Russell's previous offerings in that the land based story was intermingled with the sea chapters as the author chose put us in Henrietta's household with all her sisters, as well as on board HMS Themis. I have to confess as a shallow and unromantic old git this did annoy me a little. It was a bit like watching Master and Commander on TV with your wife flicking over to watch 5 minutes of Pride and Prejudice every now and then! However the author did even manage to engage my interest in this side plot (eventually).

Russell has a couple of things going for him. Firstly he know's his stuff and the story has that solid ring of authenticity, secondly he can tell a story that is by and large gripping and thirdly he avoids the usual cliche's. If I had to find fault it may be that some parts are over technical. The language of sail and rigging is largely a mystery to me despite the number of Napoleonic sea saga's I have read since childhood and I am still a little confused about 'wearing' 'luffing' and having the weather gauge but it really doesn't matter I find. Just grab a musket and jion the crew as they prepare to repel borders and enjoy another swashbuckling yarn under full sail!

Till next time and try not to make me wait so long Sean there is stuff I need to know and have un-cliff hung.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


‹ Previous | 1 29 | Next ›
Most Helpful First | Newest First

This product

A Ship of War
A Ship of War by Sean Thomas Russell (Hardcover - 29 Mar. 2012)
Used & New from: £5.09
Add to wishlist See buying options
Only search this product's reviews