Nautical fiction on STEAM June 23, 2013
By Linda Collison
Five stars for venturing forward in time, out of the crowded waters of Nelson-era nautical fiction, into the age of steam. Five stars for the tightly crafted battle scenes, and for the sharp writing throughout. Five stars for the rich historical background, for bringing to life the Russo-Turkish War, a complex conflict not often portrayed in historical fiction. Five stars for including women in the story — Lady Agatha and her maid, Florence Morton who risk their lives to establish a relief station on land. As an aside, after Florence Nightingale and Mary Seacole revolutionized the course of modern nursing during the Crimean War in the 1850’s, many English parents named their daughters Florence, in her honor. (Mary’s Seacole’s story remained unsung until more recently, probably because of her color and class. Class inequalities is an issue Vanner addresses obliquely, in the mindset of man of the Victorian era, and is one of the novel’s themes.) For readers who want a lot of nautical evolutions, big guns blazing, rifles cracking and swords slashing in hand-to-hand combat, you’ll not be disappointed. “The troop of Bashi Bazooks was exploding into action, casting aside cloaks, sweeping out the carbines they had concealed, blasting towards the stupefied marines… The black void that was the open muzzle of Selahattin’s pistol filled Dawlish’s vision. He tore his eyes from it, threw himself at Nusret, intent on pushing him down, knowing as he did that he was already too late.” (pg. 339/location 5097)
Antoine Vanner writes from a deep familiarity with his subject and with verve and virtuosity. The Dawlish Chronicles promises to be a good series for realistic historical action fans and an important addition to the growing body of maritime fiction.
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