(The first book in the William John Hazzard series)
A novel by Jonathan Spencer
One man against an armada
London, 1798. Late one night, a junior naval officer at the Admiralty intercepts a coded despatch, marked with blood: Napoleon Bonaparte is about to launch the largest invasion fleet in history. Target: unknown.
England is vulnerable, bereft of allies, and the Sea Lords fear a direct assault on Britain. Admiralty Intelligence sounds the alarm and prepares to unleash Nelson and the Mediterranean squadron.
But before they can, they need vital information. They need a special officer to infiltrate by land or by sea to uncover the destination of Napoleon’s armada – a man who never stops.
Marine Lt William John Hazzard.
But will he agree to help them?
Betrayed by the Admiralty at the African Cape three years earlier, Hazzard has vowed never to trust them again. Bitter memories poisoned his return home, and his devoted fiancée Sarah, unable to bear his pain any longer, disappears in Naples – never to be seen again.
But the Admiralty knows just how to get him back.
They know where Sarah is, and her life is in danger…
Its been ages since there was a new Napoleon fictional tale out, having enjoyed the likes of Bernard Cornwells Sharpe and Simon Scarrows Wellington i had high expectations.
To start with i was a little concerned, it all felt a bit to Sharpe, the grizzled veteran officer and the big Sargent, but very quickly that dissipated, and gave me a sense of Paul Collards Jack Lark, the same dark, brooding, tortured quality of character. This is no bad thing, because the Jack Lark series is one of the best Historical Action series out there for character driven plot.
Jonathan Spencer though soon started to plot his own course, a debut is always going to feel a bit like something else because we all have influences, its the mark of a new great writer when you see their own style come to life and their characters chart their own course.
Marine Lt William John Hazzard is a new name on the role call of great characters, but a worthy one, dark, brooding, full of menace, and also regret and love. A man who bucks the trend of dilettante officer in an army where rank is purchased, this is a man very much like Sharpe and Lark, a man who charts his own course, a man who shares the dangers and struggles of his men, a man with a conscience and his own moral compass. Orders are to be carried out, but not if they impinge on his own morality.
In this book we see Hazzard badly treated by the admiralty and yet despite a long convalescence from the injuries bot physical and mental he finds himself dragged back into their world of intrigue and back stabbing. His lady love is on danger and they use this to trap him, to use his passion, his moral compass and his drive to get her back safe…
Hazzard set out with a backing cast of veterans, men who have seen it all and are loyal only to their officer, the man who has sweated and bled alongside them, a man who has earned their respect, a man who they would die for, because he would die for them.
I found myself utterly engrossed in this book, its wonderfully vivid characters and explosive action, there was never a moments peace to relax and pause for breath, Hazzard goes at 100mph and never lets up in his search, not for one moment does he think of personal danger, only how he can find Sarah and save her, and you the reader are dragged along on a white knuckle adventure by his Bombay coat tails.
A fantastic Debut, a man to watch, i feel we will be seeing many more fantastic books and a definite contender for a top 5 spot in my best book of the year
‘Never give up the boat’
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