A Ship for the King

Written by Richard Woodman
Review by Patricia O’Sullivan

Having first gone to sea at the age of sixteen, spending the better part of forty years in various nautical posts, and then becoming one of England’s foremost historians of the British Merchant Navy, Richard Woodman writes maritime historical fiction with an authority few others possess. He’s penned thirty novels, most notably the Nathanial Drinkwater series set during the Napoleonic Wars. Woodman’s latest book, A Ship for the King, explores the role of the Merchant Navy leading up to the English Civil War.

The novel’s protagonist, Kit Faulkner, is an orphan who lives on scraps from Bristol’s docks. Two merchant seamen, one a former privateer, Sir Henry Mainwaring, find Kit and take him under their care, dubbing him ‘Mr. Rat’. Over the years, Kit grows into a competent seaman, eventually captaining his own ship and running a successful merchant operation. But Sir Henry has not nurtured Kit to be a merchant. Civil war is brewing in England, and Sir Henry needs both men and ships for King Charles. Torn between his Puritan in-laws and Sir Henry, Kit attempts to remain neutral. But neutrality is the first casualty in the conflict, and Kit must decide if he is a king’s man or a Parliamentary man.

Rich in historical detail, A Ship for the King is a must read for those interested in maritime adventure and the English Civil War.