This week I’m taking a look back at some of my enjoyable reads from the past … both from my reading past and the literal past. Historical Fiction is my genre of choice this week.
I’ve always been the kind of guy who looks back at the past and just wants to learn more about it. I’m hungry for pre-WW1 history in the way that most kids are hungry for sweets, video-games and annoying their parents.
There are only four on this list, limited so that the entire list would not have been made up of the Sharpe series by Bernard Cornwell.
My previous posts in this series can be found here:
On Stranger Tides by Tim Powers:
On Stranger Tides follows the exploits of John Chandagnac, who travels to the new world after the death of his puppeteer father to confront his uncle, who has apparently made off with the family fortune. During the voyage, he befriends Beth Hurwood and her father, Benjamin Hurwood, an Oxford professor. Before they arrive at their destination, their ship is waylaid by Blackbeard and his band of pirates. With the help of the professor and his assistant, the captain is killed and Chandagnac is pressed into piracy and sorcery as Blackbeard searches for the Fountain of Youth. Chandagnac, newly dubbed Jack Shandy, must stop the evil plot and save Beth Hurwood.
My format: Audio book
I remember back when I first picked this up I was mostly reading the Sharpe series and wanted something a little different to the Napoleonic Wars. When I stumbled across this I thought ‘can you get much different to the Napoleonic wars than the Golden Age of Piracy? I think not!’ I really enjoyed this one as it presented a new look at real characters from history and, for me, anything on the ocean is something I’m likely to enjoy. Especially if it has Blackbeard and other pirates gracing the pages.
Treason’s Tide by Robert Wilton:
July 1805: Napoleon’s army masses across the Channel – Britain is within hours of invasion and defeat. Only one thing stands in the way – an obscure government bureau of murky origins and shadowy purpose: The Comptrollerate General for Scrutiny and Survey. And, rescued from a shipwreck, his past erased, Tom Roscarrock is their newest agent.In England, the man who recruited Roscarrock has disappeared, his agents are turning up dead, and reports of a secret French fleet are panicking the authorities. In France, a plan is underway to shatter the last of England’s stability. Behind the clash of fleets and armies, there lies a secret world of intrigue, deception, treachery and violence – and Roscarrock is about to be thrown into it headfirst.
My format: Audio book
Already enjoying the Napoleonic era as I was with the Sharpe novels, when I stumbled across a book set in the same era but that was far more cloak and dagger than the brash forwardness of Richard Sharpe, I took a chance on it. It was surprisingly enjoyable and was one of those that I went into with no expectations and ended up really enjoying. I’ll have to hunt down Wilton’s stuff in the future and have a look if anything else tickles my fancy.
Rebel by Bernard Cornwell:
The first book in Bernard Cornwell’s best-selling series on the American Civil War.
It is summer 1861. The armies of North and South stand on the brink of America’s civil war. Nathanial Starbuck, jilted by his girl and estranged from his family, arrives in the capital of the Confederate South, where he enlists in an elite regiment being raised by rich, eccentric Washington Faulconer.
Pledged to the Faulconer Legion, Starbuck becomes a northern boy fighting for the southern cause. But nothing can prepare him for the shocking violence to follow in the war which broke America in two.
My format: Audio book
I’d already seen what a powerhouse Cornwell was when it came to the Napoleonic era with his Sharpe series and I had heard nothing but praise for his viking books. So, when I saw he had something set in the American Civil War, a time period I had never really read anything from, I jumped at the chance of trying it out. I remember enjoying this book immensely, downloading the next two and then drifting away from historical fiction on Audio books and going back my Sharpe novels. So I’ll have to re-listen at some point and carry on with the series. Although I did hear he never finished the series as a whole … which is a tad off-putting. Maybe I’ll go back to it when he finally gets around to finishing.
Sharpe’s Trafalgar by Bernard Cornwell:
Richard Sharpe, travelling home aboard the ‘Revenant’, meets Admiral Nelson and his fleet, on what was a calm October day off Cape Trafalgar.
Soldier, hero, rogue – Sharpe is the man you always want on your side. Born in poverty, he joined the army to escape jail and climbed the ranks by sheer brutal courage. He knows no other family than the regiment of the 95th Rifles whose green jacket he proudly wears.
My format: Physical book
I absolutely love the description on the cover of this. Nothing could precede the devastation of the day more ironically than quoting the calmness of it. This is one of my most memorable, and one of my absolute favourites, from the Sharpe series. Another honourable mention would have been Sharpe’s Prey, set in Copenhagen.
I’m sure, what with the series mentioned in every other listing above, that it comes as no surprise that Sharpe makes an appearance on this list. As stated at the very top, I could have had a twenty-one book list revolving around the great war hero. The series, and the characters created (both good and bad) will always hold a special place in my heart that no other book will come close to. This book, in particular, combines my favourite character, Richard Sharpe, with my favourite setting, the ocean. So for me, it was a win win.