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Britannia's Reach: The Dawlish Chronicles November 1879 - April 1880 Kindle Edition
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Top customer reviews
In this second Dawlish Chronicle, he takes us to Paraguay, South America, to accompany Commander Nicholas Dawlish RN on a dangerous mission for his patron and government. And it’s dangerous in many ways apart from the fighting action: a morally questionable goal, shifting alliances amongst the participants, a treacherous river and clever, experienced and honourable enemy.
Commander Dawlish is a skilled and self-disciplined naval officer driven by both honour and a deep desire for advancement. He has his faults, sensitivities and doubts which make him a rounded protagonist. He is a man of his age and sometimes seems old fashioned and patronising to 21st century readers, but spot-on for a Victorian military man.
The great strength of this book is the detail and depiction of the ships, sailing conditions, weaponry, tactics, military engineering and naval service life. I loved the balloon! If a reader wants the Tom Clancy level techno detail of the period, it’s here, and fascinating even for the non-technical reader.
For me, the detail was occasionally too much. I would have enjoyed more developed interaction between and background about the characters, particularly the opponents. And unlike the excellent Britannia’s Wolf, there was little presence of female characters; the one female enemy tended to verge on the stereotype. Perhaps more interplay with the character of the very interesting Mrs Dawlish at the beginning, thinking more about past conversations with her or references to her part in Britannia’s Wolf could have leavened the very male-centred action.
However, that action was exciting; on land and sea, naval, military, technological, political and commercial.Read more ›
As I read I couldn't help but see parallels with Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness.
Vanner draws us into this obscure, internecine conflict, a little-remembered war fought deep in the heart of the South American continent during the rise of the British Empire. The author's knowledge of the period and the events is apparent, yet the details never get in the way of a good, if violent, story. The ethics of the engagement are questionable and the author does nothing to glamorize the conflict; this is no recount of the Glorious First of June, this is no pastiche of the battle of Trafalgar. Instead, Britannia's Reach is a dark, brutal, complex story, told in a compelling style.
Instead of trying to validate Dawlish's actions as a hero's deeds, Vanner shows us his motives and his actions. Nicholas Dawlish - an honorable man, a likeable man - is forced to make a terrible choice. It is this dilemma that elevates the story above most historical action-adventure books.
Oh, the horror! The horror!
Dawlish is in charge of a river fleet including a monitor, a gunboat and paddle-steamers filled with conscript soldiers, towing barges with horses and supplies. His job is to take them all up the Rio Paraguay against a cunning and ruthless foe who he increasingly respects more than those for and with whom he is working. Dawlish signed on, seeking the bubble reputation (and promotion) in the canon’s mouth, so he sticks with his mission. He is driven by duty, even when it conflicts with his sympathies. His fellow-officers who lead the conscript army he must ferry up the river are an unsympathetic lot who oppose, undermine and diminish his work. His comrades in arms who share his Royal Navy training are a few stalwart Englishmen who are as reliable as the army officers and consortium representatives are not.
Dawlish’ ace is a one-of-a-kind gunship, aptly named Toad, which is surplus to the Royal Navy’s requirements. This curious craft has one huge muzzle-loading gun that rears up out of the foredeck on hydraulics, is aimed by pointing the ship, and which has absolutely devastating effect into which Vanner takes us with merciless detail.Read more ›
Most recent customer reviews
Having read 'Britannia's Wolf' I had an idea that I would like this book ... and I was not disappointed. It was even better than I expected! Read morePublished on 28 Dec. 2014 by Bob Cordery
A good read, it was interesting to read about a new time period as napoleonic and roman seem to have been overdone.Published on 20 Dec. 2014 by Derfel
Commander Nicholas Dawlish is back, this time tasked with putting down a rebellion in South America. Read morePublished on 25 Oct. 2014 by unclearthur
Reading ‘Britannia’s Reach’ on holiday took me back to my youth and the Hornblower books – fantastic! Fast, exciting, believable and gripping. A book I really could not put down. Read morePublished on 6 Sept. 2014 by jeremy ricketts
A good story well written - better than recent Cornwell and equal to Mallinson's early Hervey books a cracking long read. More pleasePublished on 19 July 2014 by Mr. C. Goodchild