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Cindy Vallar, Editor & Reviewer
P.O. Box 425, Keller, TX  76244-0425


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Books for Adults - Fiction

Trident            The Pyrate            The Reaper

Cover Art: Trident
Trident
By Michael Aye
Biting Duck Press, 2014, print ISBN 978-1-938463-12-9, $20.99
e-book ISBN 978-1-938463-08-2, $9.99

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With Britain at war with the American rebels and their French allies, Captain Sir Gabriel Anthony commands HMS Trident, a third rate ship of the line and the flagship of Rear Admiral Rupert Buck’s squadron. Convoy duty can be tedious, but each day brings Gabe closer to Barbados and time off to visit with his wife and newborn son. But duty intervenes, which causes a rift between Gabe and Faith, who sides with her countrymen in their bid for independence. Her threat to take their son home to America weighs heavy on his mind when he should focus on his assignment.

Thus begins Trident, the sixth title in The Fighting Anthonys series. After American privateers steal the army’s payroll, Gabe is tasked with rescuing the British officers imprisoned on St. Croix. Although the Danes claim neutrality in this revolution, they permit the Americans to come and go as they please. Gabe and his men succeed in their mission, but Lord Skalla of the Foreign Office learns from the freed prisoners that the American privateers plan to team up with French warships to prey on British merchant ships in the Indian Ocean. If successful, such a maneuver could devastate the British economy. Rather than patching things up with his wife, Gabe must sail half a world away to stop the enemy.

Three of Aye’s own poems introduce each part of the book, hinting at what is to come. He also includes a who’s who of characters, a glossary of nautical terms, and an historical note, which includes information about the pirates of Madagascar.

Even though I haven't read the previous books in this series, Trident easily works as a stand-alone. Aye vividly recreates life aboard an eighteenth-century warship, but abstains from inundating readers with ship-handling information. He expertly weaves in history and backstory to craft a nautical tale that immediately captures the reader, and his rousing sea battles bring us to the edge of our seats. Trident is a fast-paced, compelling story populated with memorable characters.

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Review Copyrighted ©2014 Cindy Vallar

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Cover Art: The Pyrate
The Pyrate: The Rise of Cooper Cain
By Michael Aye
Boson Books, 2015, ISBN 978-1-938463-26-6, $29.99
e-book ISBN 978-1-938463-27-3, $9.99
His father’s gambling debts have left Cooper Cain beholden to his uncle, but Cooper’s presence gnaws at his jealous cousin. The rift grows until his cousin’s lie rouses his uncle’s ire, leaving eighteen-year-old Cooper with a facial scar and forced to flee his mother and their home. In January 1810, feeling betrayed and vowing revenge, he sails for Antigua where he hopes to one day reclaim his family’s plantation, which his uncle now controls.

Also aboard the ship are David MacArthur, a former lieutenant in the Royal Navy, and the lieutenant governor of Antigua, his wife, and three daughters. The trip proves uneventful until a sail is sighted, and before long, the ship, her crew, and her passengers find themselves at the mercy of pirates. When their captain, Eli Taylor, invites Cooper and Mac to join them, they are reluctant to become outlaws. Only the seizing of two of the governor’s daughters, who are to be held for ransom, sways them to go on the account, if only to protect the girls from harm.

Eli Taylor may be the captain of the Raven and her motley crew of pirates, but he’s also a gentleman. Nevertheless he brooks no disobedience, a lesson Cooper and Mac quickly learn when one pirate goes against the captain’s orders. With the ship’s hold filled to the brim, the pirates head for Barataria to sell their plunder. During the voyage, Eli gauges the mettle and skills of both new recruits, who are treated as outcasts until they prove themselves to be true brethren of the seas. Mac’s training in the navy makes him a skilled navigator and ship’s master, while Cooper’s natural swordsmanship and quick thinking demonstrate his leadership abilities. Perhaps with the right kind of mentoring, he might one day become the Raven’s captain, for Eli wants to retire from pirating and become a respectable member of society.

At Barataria, Jean LaFitte sells their plunder and, while the Ravens disburse to spend their ill-gotten booty, Eli takes Cooper, Mac, and the girls to the home of Cindy Veigh, a respectable lady who will watch over the girls until their ransom is paid. During their stay, Cooper meets the exotic Sophia and falls in love. She is another man’s mistress and Cooper lacks sufficient funds to purchase her contract.

Eli’s legitimate business ventures have made him wealthy and, with his guidance and backing, Cooper pursues his new life in hopes of one day gaining the wealth he requires to reclaim his birthright and to make Sophia his wife. To that end they return to plundering, among which are the merchant ships in his uncle’s fleet. This provides Cooper with the first opportunity to begin wreaking vengeance on his uncle and cousin. But the pirates’ success also brings Cooper new enemies, especially when he thwarts the plans of El Diablo. Doing so makes Cooper a marked man, for this bloodthirsty and cruel pirate promises to make him pay for his interference.

The Pyrate hosts a long list of characters, some of whom are real historical personages, whiles others are fictional. The real smugglers and pirates/privateers of Barataria include Jean and Pierre Laffite, Dominique Youx, Louis “Nez Coupé” Chighizola, Renato Beluche, and Vincent Gambi. The legendary Jose Gaspar also appears. Yet it is the great cast of minor characters – with memorable names like Rooster, Spurlock, and Quang – who truly bring the story to life. A few characters from the Aye’s other series – the Fighting Anthonys and War of 1812 – also make appearances.

The themes that Aye explores in The Pyrate, the first novel in a new historical trilogy, are meant for adults. The topics are authentic and entertaining, but brutal and explicit. Revenge is the one theme that is never fully developed, even though the opening of the story implies it will be a key factor in Cooper’s life.* There are only occasional references to indicate that he achieves some payback against his uncle and cousin, but the confrontational climax fails to occur. In spite of this minor flaw, The Pyrate is filled with action and adventure, as well as a bit of romance, and is sure to please readers who enjoy gritty realism and historical accuracy in their piratical tales.


*Special note: Michael Aye assures me that the revenge theme will be carried out through all three books with Cooper's final blow against his cousin occurring in the final book.


Review Copyrighted ©2015 Cindy Vallar

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Cover Art:
          The Reaper
The Reaper
By Michael Aye
Boson Books, 2017, ISBN 978-1-932482-56-0, US $16.95
Ebook ISBN 978-1-932482-57-7, US $9.95

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After preventing pirates from capturing a convoy of East India Company ships, Captain Gilbert Anthony finds his life and career in the Royal Navy forever altered. Newspapers tout his bravery and honor throughout the kingdom. A grateful EIC honor him with gold coins and a ceremonial sword. The king bestows on him a knighthood. And his father entrusts him with training his half brother, Midshipman Gabriel Anthony, to become a naval officer. This last task also involves inheriting Gabe’s uncle, who seems to be Gabe’s protector, but Dagan is a skilled topman with sharp eyes, which make him as asset aboard Gil’s ship.

On his father’s death, Gil becomes the Earl of Deerfield, but the Admiralty has need of him far from England’s shores. Colonial grievances have been mounting and the possibility of war looms. A more immediate threat, however, are the pirates preying on merchant ships in the Caribbean and off the coast of America. With his recent success against such rogues, the Admiralty thinks he’s the best one to confront this menace. To aid in this endeavor Gil assumes command of HMS Drakkar, one of the realm’s largest frigates captured in 1759 from the French. Gabe will serve as the senior midshipman, and among the other gentlemen joining the crew are a young boy named Mr. Davy and Fourth Lieutenant Witzenfeld.

Soon after the frigate sails for Antigua, Witzenfeld reveals his true character – a cruel tyrant with a temper and a vulgar mouth to match. He continually persecutes Davy, which brings the lieutenant into contention with Gabe. Problems escalate, forcing Gil to find a tactful way to deal convince the crew that they can trust him while demonstrating no favoritism or permitting abuse.

A second complication comes when they sight two schooners plundering a barque. One woman who survives the attack is Lady Deborah McKean, to whom Gil finds himself attracted – a thought that irks him since she just witnessed the murder of her husband, as well as the brutal rapes and murders of the other women aboard the merchant ship. Turning his attention to his purpose for coming to the West Indies, Gil gathers what scant information he can of the attack, leaving him with more questions than answers. That trend continues after further encounters with the pirates, including rumors of a fifty-gun black ship with black sails. Might there be someone ashore in league with the pirates? Why do they rarely leave survivors, even those who might garner high ransoms? Or is there a more nefarious purpose behind the attacks? When a coded letter falls into Gil’s hands, he acquires vital information that might lead to answers . . . if they can decode the message.

First issued in 2005, The Reaper is the first book in The Fighting Anthonys series and this new edition has been revised. Readers are quickly drawn into this high seas adventure, rife with action and interwoven with romance. It even includes some original poetry by Aye. While no decisive indication of the time frame is provided, it occurs sometime after the Battle of Quiberon Bay (November 1759) and July 1775 when the epilogue takes place. If there is any drawback at all in the story, it is that it ends too soon, but The Reaper definitely snares the reader into wanting to read the second volume, HMS Seawolf. It is indeed a worthy addition to the growing collection of nautical fiction.

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Book review Copyright © 2018 Cindy Vallar
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