Cindy Vallar, Editor & Reviewer
P.O. Box 425, Keller, TX 76244-0425
Books for Adults - Fiction
In his introduction to this historical novel, White outlines the life of William Henry Allen from his birth through his career in the early American navy. He served as a midshipman under William Bainbridge on a voyage to Algiers; had the distinction of firing USS Chesapeake’s only gun before Commodore James Barron surrendered to HMS Leopard; and was first lieutenant under Stephen Decatur when the United States destroyed HMS Macedonian once war was declared against the British in 1812. The following year Allen took command of the US brig Argus and set sail with two purposes.
The fictional story recounts this voyage, which unfolds from the perspective of Allen’s first lieutenant, Oliver Baldwin. Their orders are to sail directly to France to deliver William Crawford, the new Minister Plenipotentiary to France, and his entourage. Until that mission is accomplished they are prohibited from engaging the enemy unless they have no alternative. While the frequent storms and tedium of daily life at sea are wonderfully brought to life, the memorable characters populating the ship bring such realism to the novel that readers walk the decks beside Baldwin as the journey progresses. The incidents portrayed run the gamut of emotions, but the most poignant episode, at least from my perspective, occurs when one the crew is swept overboard. As for the most humorous, it must be the time that Crawford, who suffers from seasickness, hasn’t yet discovered on which side of the ship he should stand when his unsettled stomach is about to erupt.
Once the Argus completes the first part of her mission, she carries out what the crew deems the more important aspect of their orders – hunting. Allen takes the war to the enemy’s doorstep, attacking merchant ships sailing the waters between England and Ireland. Their depredations are so successful that, before long, the Royal Navy has orders to hunt down and destroy them.
White’s knowledge of sailing and naval protocol enriches the narrative and reading experience. In Hostile Waters is the third book about Oliver Baldwin (previous titles being The Greater the Honor and In Pursuit of Glory) and White’s final novel to focus on the War of 1812. What transpires aboard the Argus is told in first person, which immediately draws the reader into the story, but after ten chapters of experiencing such a personal account of the men aboard Argus, it is a bit jarring when the reader gets to part two, which unfolds in third person. The reason for this change is so readers get to see what’s happing aboard HMS Pelican. When the two ships finally meet in part three, the scenes unfold from both perspectives to provide readers with a truer understanding and more complete picture of what transpired when these two vessels finally met face to face.
Review Copyrighted ©2015 Cindy Vallar
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