Michael Aye,
HMS SeaWolf
(Boson, 2008)

Have you ever attended a play put on by well-meaning but inexperienced community actors? Have you noticed how their lines sometimes sound awkward, like maybe a few more rehearsals were in order, and how -- lacking a budget -- some of the best scenes took place offstage?

HMS SeaWolf, the second book in Michael Aye's Fighting Anthonys series, is a lot like that. The characters are only roughly sketched, and their dialogue often sounds just a little too stilted. You can't help but feel that the audience at next week's show will get better value for the price of their ticket.

The book takes place during the American Revolution but focuses its attentions on a pair of brothers -- an admiral and an acting captain -- in the British navy. Lt. Gabe Anthony is the protagonist here, and his actions would make a pretty good read if written by an abler hand.

Part of the problem here is that too much action takes place off the page and is related to the reader as an aside. In one example, The SeaWolf is beset by an American gunship, and Gabe orders his gunner to return fire from the bowchaser. A paragraph or two down the page, we're told the gunship has sunk. Really, from a single shot? That's a story that deserved at least half a page.

There is also a lot of coincidence here, such as the dramatic midpoint in the book when Gabe is aboard a powder-laden supply ship when it explodes. By rights, that should be all for that particular character ... but, not only does he survive the blast, but his uncle refuses to believe he's dead and sets out down the American coast to find him, striding in the nick of time onto the very South Carolina plantation where Gabe is held captive and is in imminent peril.

Tell me all you want that Uncle Dagan has mysterious gypsy powers, and I'm still not going to believe that one.

It's also neat how every British officer who deserves a ship of his own is rewarded with one captured by Gabe at just the right moment, and how nearly every single man of interest in the British fleet meets and falls in love with a darling colonial lass.

As in his previous book, Reaper, Aye has crafted the nugget of a good story but has failed to flesh it out enough to make this a book I can recommend.

book review by
Tom Knapp

28 July 2012

Agree? Disagree?
Send us your opinions!

what's new