A Call to Arms

Written by William C. Hammond
Review by Elizabeth Knowles

The fourth in a series, this historical novel details the lives of Richard Cutler and his family as the young United States of America battles the Barbary pirates. The scenes involving fighting ships are riveting to anyone interested in the Age of Sail and rival stories told by C. S. Forester and Patrick O’Brian. Fans of these types of tales will enjoy this well-written, historically accurate book. There is a glossary of naval terms in the back that is very helpful in differentiating a camboose from, say, an orlop.

The difficulty with A Call to Arms afflicts anyone who has not read the first three books and come to know the Cutler family and their connections. Especially in the beginning pages, before the action on the Barbary Coast starts to build up and hold the reader’s attention, the book is full of names and relationships that are impossible for a new reader to comprehend. The Cutlers seem to have come from England, where some remain. They apparently had some varied experiences in the Revolutionary War, and this is all intriguing. A list of characters with some brief, spoiler-free notes about the first three books is needed. The dearth of explanation of the family backstory diminishes a book that is excellent in relating the political and military issues of the time.

Having said that, this book is highly recommended to those interested in naval history. It would probably be wise to go back to Book One and read them in order, rather than starting with A Call to Arms.