Bond delivers another fast-paced, high-impact piece of Napoleonic-era naval fiction with HMS Prometheus, eighth in his Fighting Sails series.
In the western Mediterranean in 1803, Captain Sir Richard Banks races to bring his crippled ship of the line back into fighting trim in time to support Horatio Nelson’s blockade of the French. Bond paints a broader perspective than most other masters of the genre, such as Patrick O’Brian. The narrative not only unfolds through the strategic view of the commissioned officers but also draws us into the quotidian drama of midshipmen, foremast hands, and smugglers, as well as the women who were routinely present on English naval vessels of the period, but less commonly discussed. These are more than sub-plots or contextual ambiance: the shipboard sufferings of the young former prostitute, Poppy, the moral shortcomings of foremast jacks such as Bleeden, the various inner means by which each seaman and officer cope with the terrors of naval combat. Bond shows us how each humble hobnail spirals upward to determine the fortunes of war and the outcome of great sea battles.
The senior staff is not neglected, however, and one of Bond’s most masterful touches is his close portrayal of Nelson, presenting the famous admiral from his strategic genius down to the smallest details of his generous and inspiring personality.
Like all good serial fiction, the author makes it relatively easy to pick up the story and break into the book on its own merits. That said, the ending leaves the reader yearning for the next installment.
Well researched, finely written. A must-read for lovers of sea stories.