Robert Massie is a master of compelling popular history. Castles of Steel is a masterpiece. It is a retelling of the sea war during WWI, particularly from the British point of view. The sea war has always taken a back seat to horrific ground war--the astounding losses in single ground battles made the sea war seem insignificant in comparison.
And so it is. But Massie has uncovered a fascinating story, in particular the standoff between the British and German fleets in the North Sea. His recounting of the Battles of Dogger Bank and Jutland make for compelling reading, as are his description the two great South American battles (the defeat of the British at Coronel and the British revenge at the Falkland Islands).
He tells his story crisply. His prose is clear and exciting. And he goes below the mechanics of ship movements to introduce us to some wonderful characters: the doomed Admiral Craddock, the victorious but ultimately ill-fated Admiral Spee. Likewise the two great British admirals, the impetuous Beatty and the beloved Jellicoe.
I read the book in giant gulps late into the night.
Highly recommended to any lover of popular history.