Seafaring Challenge archive at Stray Talk
an archive of my forays into fact and fiction

Archive: Seafaring Challenge

2nd February, 2008
Seafaring Challenge: Wrap-Up
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Filed under: Seafaring Challenge

Seafaring Challenge January 31st was the official end-date of the Seafaring Challenge, my first ever challenge. The challenge was to read nautical books and depending on how many you read, you could reach different ranks.

I planned to go for the rank of Admiral, by reading four books, but I only managed three, as I got a bit lazy towards the end and veered away from my Seafaring Challenge fourth choice in favour of other books. But no worries, I’m still a mighty fine Commodore (which I became because I “read three books, any genre or sub genre, but [took] things up a notch by adding a classic to the mix”. That’s provided you count Hornblower books as classics, which I do).

My books were:

I liked His Majesty’s Dragon and Flying Colours about equally, and Kydd not so much. I’ve read a lot of the Hornblower books before, but apparently not that particular one (even though I thought so before opening the book). I plan to keep reading the series by Novik, but I think the first Kydd book will also be the last I read.

Mr Midshipman Easy, the book that I planned to read, but didn’t, will still get read at some point this year, as I mean to use it for the Decades ’08 challenge. It just won’t count towards my naval rank.

Many thanks to Christina for hosting this challenge!

3rd January, 2008
His Majesty’s Dragon; Naomi Novik
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Filed under: A-Z Reading Challenge, B, English, Fantasy, First in a Series, Here Be Dragons, Historical, Seafaring Challenge

His Majesty's Dragon; Naomi Novik His Majesty’s Dragon
by Naomi Novik

For the Here Be Dragons, First in a Series, Seafaring and A-Z reading challenges.

356 pages
Del Rey
ISBN: 978-0-345-48128-3

First line: The deck of the French ship was slippery with blood, heaving in the choppy sea; a stroke might as easily bring down the man making it as the intended target.

Back cover blurb:
Aerial combat brings a thrilling new dimension to the Napoleonic Wars as valiant warriors rise to Britain’s defense by taking to the skies… not aboard aircraft but atop the mighty backs of fighting dragons.
When HMS Reliant captures a French frigate and seizes its precious cargo, an unhatched dragon egg, fate sweeps Capt. Will Laurence from his seafaring life into the uncertain future—and an unexpected kinship with a most extraordinary creature. Thrust into the rarefied world of the Aerial Corps as master of the dragon Temeraire, he will face a crash course in the daring tactics of airborne battle. For as France’s own dragon-borne forces rally to breach British soil in Bonaparte’s boldest gambit, Laurence and Temeraire must soar into their own baptism of fire.

Thoughts: I really, really liked this book. I’d suspected I might, and thankfully I was not disappointed, as has sometimes been the case (The Eyre Affair springs readily to mind as an example of this). Naomi Novik’s take on the Napoleonic Wars is quite exciting to read and her characters are ones you quickly become exceedingly fond of. The only beef I have with the story is that it’s sometimes a little too fantastic, perhaps. That, and the reactions of the main character to certain things (though, granted, they are perfectly understandable reactions for him to have, as a product of the Regency era. Still, they grated on me a little).

All in all, though, I can say with certainty that I will try to get my paws on the next three books in the series as soon as possible, and that I will also wait with bated breath for June to come around and with it the publishing of the fifth book.

A B rating is nothing if not extremely well-deserved in this case.

31st December, 2008
Flying Colours; CS Forester
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Filed under: Adventure, B, Classics, English, Historical, Personal challenges, Seafaring Challenge

The Admiral Hornblower Omnibus; CS Forester Flying Colours (part of the Admiral Hornblower Omnibus)
by CS Forester

For the End of Year Mini Challenge and the Seafaring Challenge.

155 pages
Penguin Books
ISBN: 0-14-011940-X (for the whole Omnibus)

First line: Captain Hornblower was walking up and down along the sector of the ramparts of Rosas, delimited by two sentries with loaded muskets, which the commandant had granted him for exercise.

Back cover blurb:
Hornblower becomes a national hero when he escapes a French firing squad. But the Terror of the Mediterranean becomes Europe’s most wanted man, forced to fight alone for England — and liberty.

Thoughts: I tend to get confused about which Hornblower books I’ve already read and which I have not, since I’ve not managed to find them all previously and the old translations I have don’t always include the original title. It was, therefore, a bit of a surprise when I discovered that Flying Colours was new to me. It’s true that I knew the basic storyline, since it’s alluded to in a later short story (later chronologically, anyway. I think it might have been published before Flying Colours), but I hadn’t actually read the entire thing before.

I liked it. I liked it a lot. But then again, I don’t think I’ll ever cease being intrigued by the vast difference of Hornblower as he sees himself and Hornblower as others see him. That, by far, is my favourite thing about these novels, even if Hornblower’s relationships with his men (especially Bush) and all the high seas adventures come close behind.

At any rate, I’m giving this a B and will let that conclude this year of reading. I don’t expect I shall finish anything else in 2007.

11th November, 2007
Kydd; Julian Stockwin
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Filed under: Adventure, C, English, Historical, Seafaring Challenge

Kydd; Julian Stockwin Kydd
by Julian Stockwin

For the Seafaring Challenge.

440 pages
Coronet Books
ISBN: 0-340-79474-7

First line: ‘The Honourable Member for Molton.’

Back cover blurb:
Guns. Guts. Courage. Discipline. Death.

The year is 1793. Europe is ablaze with war and men are urgently needed to man the ships. Press-ganged off the streets of Guildford, young wig-maker Thomas Paine Kydd must learn the harsh realities of shipboard life very quickly. It’s that or die.

In all the danger of tempest and battle, Kydd eventually learns to admire the skills and courage of his shipmates. He comes to relish the challenge of the 98-gun line-of-battle ship HMS Duke William, and the camaraderie of its battle-hardened crew. Kydd is loyal, brave and passionate. But will that be enough to turn the raw youth into a true sailor?

Thoughts: All other novels I’ve read on this theme have, more or less, featured officers as the main characters. This one doesn’t, which in a sense made it more interesting. However, I’ve discovered that I rather do prefer to read about officers rather than able (or ordinary, as the case may be) seamen.

This is just the first in a series of books, and while it was certainly okay (once I got in to it properly, which took a while, because of the tedium of everyday life aboard a blockade-cruising ship) , I have no urge to read the following books. If it had given me taste for more, my rating would have been higher, but as things are, I give it a C.

3rd November, 2007
Seafaring Challenge: The list
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Filed under: Seafaring Challenge

Seafaring Challenge I just discovered the world of reading challenges and I just can’t get over how much fun it seems. Unfortunately, most of the ones I’m interested in don’t start until early ’08, which left me wanting something to bite into right now. Thankfully for me, I then stumbled upon the Seafaring Challenge which started only a couple of days ago. Basically, it’s the perfect match as I completely adore nautical books.

The challenge runs from November 1st, 2007 to January 31st, 2008, so I’m not going to make my list of books terribly long, but I do plan on reading at least four (which ought to earn me the rank of Admiral).

My list:

  • Mr Midshipman Easy; Captain Frederick Marryat
  • Kydd; Julian Stockwin — finished on 11th November, 2007
  • This Thing of Darkness; Harry Thompson
  • Beat to Quarters; CS Forester
  • His Majesty’s Dragon; Naomi Novik