Tuesday, 10 April 2018

Review: The Battle of All the Ages by J.D. Davies

J.D. Davies has really found his style with his Matthew Quinton series. The fourth part that I reviewed late last year was the first one that pulled me in, but I still pointed out that the stories seem to be staying on land far more than at sea. However, the fifth book in the series fixes all that!

For the first three novels, Matthew Quinton spent far too much time trying to puzzle out the secrets of his family and only got to sea on a few short sequences. The fourth novel gave us a little bit more of sea action and the fifth finally brings us an actual sea battle. A full half of the book is taken by an account of the epic Four Days Battle of 1666 between the English and the Dutch and then, after a short spell upon land, the novel finishes up with the following battle: The St James's Day Fight. Both accounts are filled with detail and where the author has made changes to historical facts (as far as they can ever be deciphered), they are explained in the Historical Notes at the end of the novel.

This was an excellent read to any fan of naval fiction and the praise on the cover - "Hornblower, Aubrey and Quinton - a pantheon of the best adventures at sea" - is fully deserved. The action and plot move forward with great pacing and the writing is - as it has for the entire series. Davies' meticulous research really shows through and, as a reader, one is fully transported to his very different day and age. There are no ship's wheels or crow's nests here to reveal that the author has not truly studied the era and the ships that were in use in the 17th century.

Like the previous volume, I can fully recommend this series to any fan of Patrick O'Brian. The first three parts may not offer as much sea action or activities, but they do show the problematic era of gentlemen captains and what it meant to English seamanship. And, as I already gushed above, the fourth and fifth parts compensate for any neglects of the earlier ones.