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Battle Fleet: The Adventures of Sam Witchall Hardcover – 5 Nov 2007
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`Memorably well-written adventures'
-- The Times --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
About the Author
A former senior editor with Usborne Publishing, Paul Dowswell is now a full-time author. He has written many non-fiction titles, two of which were shortlisted for the Blue Peter Book Award. Powder Monkey, his first novel, was published to huge critical acclaim and was the first book in his wonderful Sam Witchall trilogy. Paul lives in Wolverhampton with his family.
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In this unravelling yarn, the series' eponymous hero redeems his Transportation- truncated Navy career and begins to leave behind the ignominy of the calumny framed by a "crooked Purser". That (first outlined in volume one and two) saw Sam tasting convict food. However, fresh from his extended bush tucker trial, we join (or re-join) Sam and his good friend Richard, an American "tar", on the deck of the Orion, sailing back to Blighty, via the Spice Islands.
Needless to say, seas, naturally, are rarely smooth for the protagonist and his companion, and if it isn't a mast snapping in a violent storm, it is treacherous natives, with hunger in their eyes, snapping at their heels looking for something spicy for their pot roast. Only the company of a poorly parrot, (caged and suffering a transportation of his own) and two girls (one, Lizzie Borrow, fleeing a disastrous Australian engagement -I'm a Governor's daughter -Get me out of here? ) and her maid "a pretty dark-haired girl named Bel Sparke" (more of her latter I'll warrant) lift the mood of the two young sailors as they seek to overcome the distrust of their crewmates as they long haul their way back from the Antipodes.
Once back in London, Sam faces an agonising choice- re-join the navy or try to make a different life for himself in his native Norfolk. Yes, dear reader, you guessed it...
Entertaining, if not sparklingly written, this historical yomp may not be everyone's pieces of eight but is thoroughly imbued with salty historical flavour. More a boy's book , despite the first handholding of romance, (yes, Bel sparks (geddit?) a fire in young Sam's heart) readers not familiar with pressgangs, flogging, flagging systems in battle and key admirals, will learn about life above and below decks.
Those already familiar with the age of sail will doubtless consider the genre a crowded port. Heavyweight frigates such has Captain Marryat and C.S Forester have navigated similar waters, albeit for audiences past. Were the good ship Dowswell venturing into battle against those venerable Dreadnoughts, this novel might prove not so much a Trafalgar, more (forgive me!) an inglorious Waterloo. That said, this book will find an audience, and like a dinghy might be the first vessel of a sailor who grows to captain a fleet of tankers, so too "Battle Fleet" might pilot fluent readers to onto more luxurious yachts in time.
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