Clash of Empires: The Red Sea
This is a sequel to Clash of Empires: The Great Siege, which I have not read and the HNR did not review (because we didn’t get a copy; hint, hint, Orion). Nicholas Ingoldsby and his manservant Hodge, English soldiers who had fought alongside the Hospitaller Knights of St. John at the victory in the Great Siege of Malta in 1565, are now, in 1571, slaves at the oars of a corsair galley on which they have spent the past two years.
Fate springs them from the galley and reunites them with two Knights of St. John. Along with the shifty Moor Abdul, whose motives are unclear, they land in secret in Cyprus, which is now the scene of another siege by the Turks.
After more battles and escapes, they help to galvanise the naval alliance that Pope Pius V has assembled, and a great fleet leaves Venice to confront the Turks at sea. Its commander, Don John of Austria, reveals an iron grasp of tactics and command beneath his foppish appearance and manners, and leads the fleet to a decisive battle at Lepanto.
It’s non-stop action throughout this novel, and it is certainly a change to see two English Catholics as heroes, instead of playing the roles of psychopathic villains in which we are usually cast. The facts of history have been slightly changed, which is deliberate, although I’m not sure that the premature appearance of a telescope at Lepanto was.
Thoroughly recommended as a blood-and-thunder epic, but whoever was responsible for the proofreading should be sent to the rowing benches of a Moorish galley.