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.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Well written sequel to "Under Enemy Colours"Nov. 9 2010
- Published on Amazon.com
In the wake of the fictional Horatio Hornblower, Jack Aubrey, Richard Delancey, Nicholas Ramage, Richard Bolitho, Nathaniel Drinkwater, Thomas Kydd, William Rennie, and Kit Killigrew - and the real historical officer Michael Fitton, whose equally amazing career was novelised by Showell Styles - yet another hero of the age of fighting sail took to the quarterdeck in Sean Thomas Russell's first book, Under Enemy Colours.
In this book Sean Thomas Russel puts his half-English, half French officer Lieutenant Charles Hayden back in command of the frigate Themis on which he had to contend with a lazy and incompetent but well-connected captain, and a mutiny, in the first book.
To follow in the footsteps of writers of the calibre of C.S. Forester, Patrick O'Brien, and C Northcote Parkinson must take a great deal of courage, and to make a new naval hero stand out from them is quite difficult. I don't think either of Russell's first two books are quite up to the standard of those three, but both are as good or better than most of the more recent crop of historical naval fiction.
Mind you, like some of the best of the other novels in this genre, "A battle won" is not so much fiction as novelised history in which the author's fictional central characters have effectively been inserted into real historical events.
Charles Hayden is the son of an English father, long dead, and a French mother who has remarried, to an American ship-owner, and re-located to Boston. At the start of the previous book, in 1793, Hayden was offered the post of First Lieutenant of the new frigate HMS Themis - but with secret orders that made the job a poisoned chalice of the worst kind.
Hayden had to contend with just about every stock challenge in sailing navy fiction before putting down a mutiny, defeating the French, and winning a coveted and richly deserved promotion to the rank of Master and Commander, the first rung on the ladder to higher rank. He was also promised command of a sloop, HMS Kent, and was on the verge of forming an understanding with a delightful lady called Henrietta.
At the start of this book, Hayden is waiting in Plymouth for the Kent to arrive so that he can take command of her, when he is summoned to see the Port Admiral. HMS Themis is due to be sent to join Lord Hood's mediteranean fleet: having lost patience with the captain who was supposed to take command of her, the port admiral orders Hayden to take acting command of Themis as a "job captain" and sail her to Hood, escorting a convoy on the way.
The battles on sea and at land which follow, from the fall of the royalist rebellion in Toulon to British support for an independent Corsica, would have seemed too extraordinary to be true had not the most remarkable battles and characters in the book been based closely on real events and people. Russell explains in an author's note at the end of the book how certain exploits of HMS Themis and Charles Hayden were based on the real achievements of the frigate HMS Juno and those of Captain George Cook: the real and extraordinary characters who are brought to life in the pages of the novel include the corsican general Paoli and Colonel (later General) John Moore.
The obvious challenges Hayden has to contend with are the defeat of French soldiers and sailors, including a fortress at Mortella which so impressed the British that copies of the design were built as coastal defence fortifications all over Britain and called (the name was slightly mispelled) Martello Towers. But he also has to contend with difficult colleagues, and with the consequences of an act of kindness to two refugees which is repaid with betrayal, threatening Hayden with both financial ruin and the loss of the fair Henrietta.
There is a "hanging" ending as Hayden heads back to sea at the end of the book, leaving several of the storylines unresolved, and the reader eagerly awaiting the third volume in the series.
I enjoyed both the first two books in this story and can recommend them.
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
A Battle WonOct. 29 2010
Louis J. Garday
- Published on Amazon.com
Well worth the wait as the second in what I hope to be a long series. The odd twist at the end I suspect was done to keep avid readers of the genre such as myself, overly eager to acquire the next book.
Like many my age, I was hooked into the British Age of Sail books by C.S. Forester as a boy and now at 60 + read every author I can find on the subject. Russell is without a doubt one of the best. He carefully blends history and fiction, taking only modest liberty, reminding me of Michener's technique of combining story and adventure with a free history lesson. I cannot wait for the next in the series. Where do I send my check?