The Darkening Sea Paperback – Nov 22 2005
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“One of our foremost writers of naval fiction.”
About the Author
Douglas Reeman (Alexander Kent) did convoy duty in the Atlantic, the Arctic and the North Sea. He has written over thirty novels under his own name and more than twenty bestselling historical novels featuring Richard Bolitho under the pseudonym Alexander Kent.See all Product Description
Top Customer Reviews
All those trends are at work in this installment. If your principal interest to Kent's novels is the sea battles and swordfights, you may want to give up on the series--or at least this piece of it. If you've stuck with the series because because you care about Bolitho and the other continuing characters, though . . . settle back and enjoy a deftly written story about love, loss, and second chances (punctuated by some 1st-rate sea battles).
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
What I found good and interesting about this book is that there were multiple plot lines that were all moved forward. Early on in the series, we follow Bolitho on a single ship and a single action and that is the focus of the whole book. That was appropriate and very well done as Bolitho moved from Midshipman to officer ranks. What I like in this book is that Sir Richard is now a Vice-Admiral and his concerns are much more global - so having several plot lines at once is highly appropriate and even entertaining.
Secondly, Sir Richard has always been portrayed as human, but in this book the depictions of those situations is much more true to life. This is a testament to the author's growth in his trade! This also translates into Sir Richard's relationship with the love of his life - Lady Catherine. The scenes describing their life together - both on and off the water - ring true.
Some of the other threads that are addressed here are that Sir Richard is dispatched to handle a vague threat to a maritime expedition in the Indian Ocean. He is sent with a flottila. Of course, it is only two or three frigates with a couple of brigs to help out, but at least it is not a single ship under a Vice Admiral as we've seen in other recent books. Of course, you could quibble that the size of the force was more appropriate for a Commodore - but never mind that.
Other threads that carry forward are the relationship between Sir Richard and Thomas Herrick - this was getting very negative and dark in the last few books and is moved forward in this book; Also the history of Lady Catherine is brought to the foreground. There is a pretty remarkable set of chapters in which she reveals (through her actions) what her early life was like and we are also provided with the answer of why she cannot bear children. It is actually a sentimental and poignant scene! Lady Catherine also resolves her situation vis a vis the mysterious Sillitoe (where did he come up with THAT name?)
On the negative side, this book is so packed with threads of plot that we see almost nothing of Adam Bolitho and his relationship with Zenoria is really suspended (oh, there are many words written about it but nothing is resolved or changed). Some major changes in characters occur with very little convincing explanations (the First Sea Lord is replaced between the last volume and this one) and Sir Richard has access to two new officers who are mere caricatures: The harsh Trevenen and the enigmatic Avery. Flag Lieutenant Avery becomes 'one of the gang' and Captain Trevenen? Well, you'll have to read the book to find out.
The most major personal development is that Allday gets married. This was a thread that started in the last book and reaches a climax in this one. One wonders if he will now retire from the service and spend the rest of his days running the Inn with his new wife - Not likely!
So, on balance, I really enjoyed this book regardless of its flaws and am looking forward to the next one.
The shipboard scenes are capably written, particularly once battle is joined, and are marred only by Bolitho's insistence that England had no true appreciation of the sacrifice made by those brave tars who were snatched from their pastoral lives by the dreaded press-gang. The point is a good one, but does not need to be made in every novel. The book is worth the read, however, particularly because of Kent's expert portrayal of Lady Catherine Somervell. Catherine is a fascinating character, especially in this genre -- a woman whose relationship with Bolitho mirrors the real-life scandal of Emma Hamilton. Kent's willingness to show Catherine apart from Bolitho, particularly in a dramatic scene set in the lower-class London of Catherine's youth, is a refreshing complement to the guns-and-grapnels narrative that appearsin all of the fiction set in this era.
As for the story, I'll read and judge.
The Bolitho adventure is winding down for Richard and soon Adam will take center stage, I know that much. While Lewrie may start to get tired and wear on my nerves, Bolitho's introspection and self doubt kept him real.
This installment of the series is part war story and part soap opera. We have the drama of battle on the high seas combined with the drama of love, friendship, and personal secrets.
Will Sir Richard be able tho keep the secret of his failing eyesight?
Can Catherine, Sir Richard's great love, maintain the secret of her humble beginnings?
Is there any way Bolitho can mend his broken friendship with his best friend Thomas Herrick?
What will happen between Bolitho's nephew Adam, and his great love Zenoria?
Zenoria has given birth to Adam's child even though she is married to another captain. Can she keep the secret of the child's true paternity?
Interwoven between the relationship drama is some fine naval warfare action. Bolitho's small squadron must battle the French. But now there is a pesky American frigate to deal with.
Even though Sir Richard is hounded by self doubts, in the end he proves his worth as a great naval commander.
For me, this was a fun read.
As volume followed volume, the series risked becoming formulaic. In the latter novels the author delves more into the personal stories of the characters, which some fans love and some hate. A few of the books steered to deeply into soap opera for my taste. Does anyone really care about the checkered past of the Admiral's cabin servant?
This particular volume does not fall into that trap. It is mercifully light on the melodrama and spends most of its time shipboard, where it belongs. And while there is sacrifice and loss, this novel resolves several ongoing character conflicts and leaves our hero with a reasonably happy ending. I believe I shall stop reading the series right here. Twenty is a nice round number. After all, nobody lives forever; why drive the thing to its bitter end? Much better to go back to the beginning The Complete Midshipman Bolitho (The Bolitho Novels, Volume 1) and live it all over again.