This book is fast moving historical action adventure. Set in the 18th century in a time when sail was the master of the seas. Russell, who is new to the genre, guides the reader through a sea tale that has a few surprises.
The book is unique in this genre because it has a plethora of different and sometimes interesting sidebars. The author used these sidebars to paint a picture of the historical social context of those times. Some of the sidebars are interesting, but others like the golf game was a distraction for me. The characters are not all the usual players who inhabit this genre. There are heroes and villains, and then there are a few real people struggling to survive on a navy ship.
My only complaint is that I didn't find a date at the beginning and I had to guess as to when the story happened. But the story kept me reading and that's what action adventure stories are for; to entertain. I dip my ensign to this sea tale.
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68 of 70 people found the following review helpful
A Fresh Take on Classic Naval FictionAug. 14 2010
Richard E. Spilman
- Published on Amazon.com
A Battle Won by S. Thomas Russell, is classic nautical fiction - vivid, fast paced and full of drama, both on sea and land. Master and Commander Charles Hayden is a gifted naval commander with extremely bad luck. In the previous book, Under Enemy Colors, he found himself serving aboard HMS Themis, a frigate with a tyrannical captain and a mutinous crew. Now in A Battle Won, instead of being allowed to take command of his own ship, Hayden is reassigned back to the Themis, a ship with such a bad reputation that no captain wants the command.
What makes A Battle Won so absorbing is simply that Russell writes exceptionally well. It is easy to slip into and be enveloped by the book. The scenes, both on shipboard and in Corsica, are well researched and the characters consistently both vivid and believable. It is, to use the cliché, a real page-turner, and sets us up for the next book in the series where Captain Hayden must again overcome the unfairness and ill fortune that blocks the advancement that he so richly deserves.
The only negative thing I can say about the book is also a positive, depending on your perspective. Captain Hayden and his exploits fit perfectly into the archetype of the historical naval fiction genre. He is a young and talented officer from a good background, yet held back by family history. He has more enemies than allies in the Admiralty yet ultimately rises in the rank through sheer ability. This brief bio applies to Charles Hayden, yet could also be applied to Jack Aubrey, Richard Bolitho, Horatio Hornblower and perhaps a score of others. What makes A Battle Won distinctive is Russell's story telling. While reading the book, I felt at home, in comfortable surroundings. While the territory is familiar, it still seems fresh and original.
My one recurring complaint with much of traditional naval fiction is that it can be chronically episodic. Russell succeeds in avoiding this in A Battle Won. The major sections of the book, separated by diverting intermissions, end up feeling all part of the whole. Very nicely done.
A Battle Won will be savored by fans of historical naval fiction and will be a delight for those new to the genre. Highly recommended.
16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
Continuing the traditionSept. 29 2010
Julia A. Andrews
- Published on Amazon.com
It has been a long wait for the sequel to "Under Enemy Colors"...........but a worthwhile one. As other reviewers have commented, the central character, Charles Hayden, is a worthy successor to the Hornblower/Jack Aubrey tradition of naval heroes battling in the Napoleonic wars. (The mining of this period is coincidentally illustrated by the appearance of John Moore - later Sir John Moore of Corunna- both in this book and the recently published "The Fort" by Bernard Cornwell). Hayden has many trials to overcome. Some incompetent and downright malicious senior officers, an enemy (as yet unknown) in the Admiralty, and jealousy amongst some of his peers. In this tale he also finds himself embroiled in legal problems resulting from assisting some French exiles...a true example of "no good deed going unpunished".
Russell clearly knows his stuff when it comes to seafaring and his action sequences are taut and riveting. His descriptions of the rugged Corsican terrain, over which Hayden labours to manhandle naval guns, reveal an affection for that island which he emphasises in his afterword.
As always with this genre, the enjoyment of the story very much depends upon our empathy with the central character. Hayden (not yet a post captain) is modest, humorous, a brilliant seaman and leader (of course!) and an altogether likeable man. Similarly, the secondary characters are well drawn and unfailingly interesting.
If I have any criticism of the novel, it is that a couple of the sequences would have benefited from a little editing. The task of hauling the guns over rocky terrain of Corsica would not have been effective if too much detail had been skimped. Neverthelss the passage could have been shortened a little to avoid a little dragging of the pace. Similarly, although genuinely funny and interesting, an episode describing an early golf match is slightly overdrawn. These are, nonetheless, relatively minor flaws in a great read and I look forward eagerly to the next episode of Hayden's career...no doubt glittering although fraught with difficulties.
Enjoy the read.
10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
If you love Patrick O'Brian, welcome home (and more) ...Oct. 18 2010
- Published on Amazon.com
I have little to add to the reviews already written. I love Audrey (and the good Dr.) Hornblower, et. al. and have hoped to find something that compared. I did not expect to find anything that compared so favorably. This is an excellent book. It has great characters that I want to follow, a good story, a good laugh, and not a little bit about human nature that motivates me to live up to my principles (and to aspire to Capt. Hayden's in the midst of his humanity). Like O'Brian, S. Thomas Russell captures the times, the people, and the issues of the era (on land and on sea) so very well - informing and enlightening while entertaining. If you have any interest in naval fiction or simply desire a good read, look no further. I would be delighted to share the gunroom with Mr. Russell and his characters and look forward to doing so as soon as the next volume arrives. Be good to yourself and read Under Enemy Colors first (you can't beat the price). I loved the second book and liked the first - but the second would be nowhere near as good without experiencing the first. Very highly recommended.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Look elsewhere for well-written, accurate nautical historical fictionMarch 31 2013
- Published on Amazon.com
First about me - I am an historical and nautical fiction nut. I have read many of the best in nautical fiction, including Forester, O'Brian, C. Northcote Parkinson, Dudley Pope, Richard Woodman . . .
Second, how I bought this book. I looked at reviews extensively, and wow, they looked great. Usually with a "new" author I will check a book out from my library first, but the library did not have it. I took a gamble and bought it, I was really sorry I did.
I am a history buff, esp. re: the French Revolution and Napoleonic periods. As such, I found the errors (and not just nautical) in this book to be astonishing for an author with the high level of great reviews he has gotten - and not just from Amazon readers. Also he is a sailor ... well.
Let me say this: For those of you who are new to nautical fiction, do not know or care about historical detail and accuracy, and are not worried about character development, you may enjoy this author's work, and may give it even 4 stars. It has a lot of "action" (accurate or not) and some people enjoy that.
Some details on what I found disappointing:
In the beginning we "re-meet" (this is Book Two) the hero, Charles Hayden, who is reassigned to the ship from the first book, where there was a mutiny. Hayden has been promoted by the Admiralty to the level of Master and Commander (a rank unique to the British Royal Navy of the time - a sort of half-captain who, by naval tradition, is *always* addressed as "Captain LastName").
Captain Hayden enters abruptly. There is little "back story." He meets and talks to people on the ship who I suppose I should know, but as I never read the first book, I had not many clues as to their rank or why he is glad to see them. Writers like Bernard Cornwell and Patrick O'Brian almost always manage to sneak in a summary of the "story so far" and of the repeat characters, meaning one can pick of one of the "Sharpe's" or "Aubrey-Maturin" series mid way through and not be lost as I was here.
The assigned Post Captain to this 32-gun frigate decided he does not want her due to her "bad luck" (sailors are very superstitious, including officers)and leaves her under his 1st lieutenant with the crew in Plymouth to protest to his friends in London for another ship. The Admiralty sends our hero, a mere M&C, to sail her and her crew to meet Admiral Lord Hood at Gibraltar. What, they could not find a Post-Captain anywhere "on the beach" and on half-pay desperate enough to to take her? Hard to believe.
The story itself has problems in the writing of it. I don't want to belabor this review further, I will give one big example: the drawn-out voyage of the Naval ships and their escorted merchant convoy down the Bay of Biscay was hard to follow. The battles were very, very confusing. The leaping back and forth as to where the escorting ships were, what the convoyed ships were doing vs. the Naval ships, etc. made me dizzy.
To skip way ahead, I was waiting for the book to get to the "point" of the story as in the book's descriptions, meaning the battles on Corsica, only to find out that that is a mere quarter of the book.
In summary, the characters were poorly drawn, especially the hero; there were far too many nautical and British naval errors in terminology and practices (the carpenter's crew were making cots? That's the sailmaker's job); too many distractions such as the attendance of the hero at a performance of Romeo and Juliet using a character based on the very real "Romeo" Coates in the early stages, and then a ridiculous golf game that was awkwardly inserted and went on far too long. (Neither scene, to me, added anything, not even humor, to the book or the characters.)
This author has the potential to be a much better writer. He certainly has the makings of a good plot here, but he needs discipline, lessons in plot outline and staging, better editing and some serious research into the ways of the British Navy before I will read another book of his again.
All this said, I repeat: For those of you who are new to nautical fiction, do not know or care about historical detail and accuracy, and are not worried about character development, you may enjoy this author's work, and may give it even 4 stars. It has a lot of "action" (accurate or not).
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Title of the book should have been - A Battle "Never" WonJan. 23 2012
- Published on Amazon.com
I have two major complaints about this book that really ruined it for me.
- Never have I seen such unabashed bad luck and tragedy on a main character. Especially for a book with the title "A Battle Won". The poor guy, who does nothing but the right thing, is tortured by one major problem and disrespect after another. I only kept reading because I could only hope his luck would eventually change and he would come out on top. Instead of him getting the recognition he deserved the coup de grâce was in the end of the book where the planets and stars came crashing down on his head. Geez....I was depressed after reading this book.
- The second main complaint was how far fetched the actions and events where. I don't want to give it away in case you do read the book, but I can tell you this " Star Trek" was more believable.
- And one minor complaint...There was a chapter with them playing golf....yes golf! I actually flipped pages until it was over.
There are so many good examples of books on this genre, this one is NOT worth the read.
And honestly the only reason I read the whole book is because I was waiting for something good to finally happen....which it did not. Like a bad movie you don't turn off because you can't believe it can be this bad....Well this is what I went through.