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The tide of war is the second book in the Nathan Peake trilogy set in the later period of the 18th century just after the French revolution and before the emergence of Napoleon. Nathan Peake is a captain of his majesties Royal Navy and has just returned from observing the terrible events of the French revolution and the time of terror. He is young (early 30's) and comes back from France a troubled and scarred man, he has lost his love of his life and doesn't have a command of his own.
The tide of war is the first book I've read by Seth Hunter and as a general rule I've enjoyed nautical tales such as the Hornblower and the Patrick O'Brien novels but I wouldn't call myself a huge fan of the genre.
However, I picked up the book and was soon transported to the time of trials which beset England and France in the late 18th century; we have the Royal Navy as the most powerful force on the seas but the French army as the most powerful on the land. The setting of a story principally on a ship does give a closure to the capabilities of the story, there is little room on board for events for things to happen and only engages on sea and arriving at a harbour to give the author a chance to flesh out a story.
As with all novels, a book survives on fails on the quality of the writing and for the reader to engage with the main character, I think the hardest skill in all of writing is creating a main character that isn't likeable. In this novel, we encounter an opinionated, stubborn and in some cases sheer bloody minded young man who will trample over everyone to get what is his heart's desire, a command of his own. Nathan Peake is the strongest part of the novel, he is a similar age to the very real Napoleon and shares many characteristics of the young French general when the book is set, a drive to succeed and a desire to do the best for England. At the start of the novel, he meets his separated parents and is given conflicting advice on progressing his career with the Admiralty.
However, the book soon progresses Nathan is invited to become the captain of the Unicorn unfortunately the Unicorn was last seen somewhere in and around Havana with her captain missing. We are then transported to the most turbulent area of the conflicts between England, France and Spain, the Caribbean. All three European powers are fighting for control over Cuba, Bahamas, and the West Indies at this time some are English, some French and some Spanish but all are bested by piracy and corruption. Peake is also given a mission, using the lost Unicorn he is to engage and best the bigger and faster French ship the Virginie.
What follows is a classic nautical tale; we have rebellious crew, awkward and difficult officers and intrigue in the spy/friend American George Imlay. Imlay joins the story early and persists throughout and is a real historical character, he is a spy, a chancer and an adventurer and is firmly set in the attractive rogue role in this novel.
So as I said I enjoy a bit of nautical adventure with the classic constraints of the Royal Navy, all clipped and tight discipline and a set up which any Star trek would be familiar (that's why everyone is called Mr on Star Trek and all the ranks are the same). A nautical adventure has to have plenty of cutlass waiving, cannons firing, and sea battles and if possible a bit of scurvy pirates as well. They all appear in the book, there is also a bit of a sordid sex scene which might be a candidate for the bad sex award in literature and of course we have a nice final battle and as this is the middle of a trilogy you can guess who survives and who wins through.
Seth Hunter has built an interesting world, he has taken the writing of Patrick O'Brien but made the nautical adventure a bit more accessible for the modern reader, he clearly loves all the detail and everything feels correct. He also resists the temptation to include a few famous cameo's, he could easily have a Nelson or a Napoleon pop up or a famous founding father of the United States as parts of the book are set in French owned Louisiana but no he tells a tale and gives the reader a decent insight into 18th century life on the waves.