Under Enemy Colors by S. Thomas Russell (Charles Hayden, #1)

My #6 favorite read of 2013

coverFrom the Book Cover

A sweeping novel of maritime mutiny set against the backdrop of the French Revolution that evokes such masters as Patrick O’Brian and Bernard Cornwell. At the time of the French Revolution, one of Britain’s most skillful naval officers, Charles Saunders Hayden, is a young lieutenant, the son of an English father and a French mother. His abilities and his loyalty to the king of England are beyond dispute, yet his career seems doomed by his “mixed” heritage and lack of political connections. Consequently, Hayden is assigned to an aging frigate, the “Themis,” under the command of Captain Josiah Hart, a man known as “Faint Hart” throughout the service. As the Themis takes to sea to harass the enemy, the disaffection of the crew begins to boil over into acts of violence, and the lieutenant finds himself caught between his superior and a crew pushed toward mutiny. A revolution at sea ensues, and Hayden is wrenchingly torn between honor and duty, as the magnificent Royal Navy engages the French in a centuries-old struggle for power. This is a novel that satisfies on all levels, and will be loved by a wide range of readers: Patrick O’Brian’s adoring literary following, as well as readers who love Bernard Cornwell, Steven Pressfield, and Jeff Shaara. Its scenes of maritime warfare match, and even surpass, O’Brian’s for majesty and drama
A superb 5 Stars

A riotous high seas adventure filled with mutiny, inept leaders, cannons, court marshals and one entertaining half French, half English hero.

Many times during the reading of this book I stopped and said to myself “this is a superb!”  I wasn’t kidding myself.  It really was.  Personally, well written historical fiction is the best and most entertaining type of novel.  Under Enemy Colors had all of the things that I look for in good HF.

The setting and characters felt authentic.  Having no real knowledge of the life of a British Navyman in the 1700’s, I am no expert on authenticity.  That said, the characters interactions with each other and the tiered society came off as authentic.  The reader has the sense they have been transported back in time and to a earlier society.  Unless the reader has special knowledge of some distant period of time, authenticity will be subjective.  S. Thomas Russell brings us on a voyage filled with characters and settings that are believable and seem to fit with their surroundings.

The characters are well developed and interesting and the story is sharp and interesting.  We follow the journey of First Lieutenant Charles Hayden whose career in His Majesty’s Navy is floundering.  He is offered the devil’s deal to sail on the Ship of one Captain Hart who is well placed in society but inept at his post.  He is offered the post on the requirement the report secretly to the admiralty of the events on the ship while being offered nothing in return.  We follow along on a campaign with Charles Hayden and he fights off both mutiny and his inept captain.

Having read very few novels revolving around the British Navy, I have no real basis of comparison.  I have heard it compared to the Horatio Hornblower novels and Bernard Cornwell novels.  I cannot speak to the truth of these comparison but I give it my highest recommendation.

As a final note, the book uses many nautical reference any constant reference to areas of the ship.  I have little to no knowledge of sailing and nautical terms but I was not lost or confused while reading the book.  To me, it gave an added sense of realism.

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Tim Written by:

Tim is a lawyer, sports fan, parent, husband and book lover. He runs his own legal practice and is the founder of The Literary Lawyer book blog and a contributing writer for baseballbabble.com. Tim loves to share his love of reading by providing reviews to entertain as well as provide information to help you make an informed reading decision.