The Boy Who Led Them

Written by George Chittenden
Review by Joanna Zefron

In the present day, a young and troubled boy, Stanley, finds a centuries-old message in a bottle washed ashore. In his quest to uncover the truth behind the message, Stanley encounters the tale of a boy his own age and his journey to fame, becoming the town’s most notorious smuggler in history. Readers journey back as an elderly man recounts the story of Jacob Swift over 200 years ago…

Smuggling, treasure, fortune, sinking ships and messages in bottles – this is a book that is full of action and adventure, recommended for any reader who enjoys naval fiction or pirate novels. Overall, the story has an exciting plot, and the author pays close attention to detail with excellent use of punctuation and grammar, although it does get repetitive at times – both of facts and of words in short succession.

The author has used some fantastic imagery. One of my favourite lines was ‘Prising the bottle from the grip the beach had on it.’

The story of Jacob Swift was limited by the manner in which it was presented. Chapter after chapter was one man telling the story of Jacob Swift. This method of ‘telling’ meant that Jacob remained fairly one-dimensional. Perhaps if the prose was alternating between modern day and 1792, the story could be ‘shown’ instead of ‘told’, and readers would have the opportunity to get to know Jacob in a greater depth.

A story that has tremendous potential to be an exhilarating read was slightly let down by the cover artwork, which displays poor typography over a dark image. A  professional cover designer would add a lot to the book, and along with a further edit to amend the repetition and showing versus telling, I believe The Boy Who Led Them could become an excellent work of self-published historical fiction.