Alaric Bond’s The Patriot’s Fate, the fifth in his Fighting Sail series, is an exciting nautical adventure that is also a rich and fascinating voyage through the history, politics and complex divided loyalties of Britain at the end of the eighteenth century.
Many novels in the genre follow the model used by C.S. Forester, Patrick O’Brian and so many others, where the focus is the career of a single Royal Navy officer. The Patriot’s Fate, like the other books in Bond’s Fighting Sail series, is told through multiple perspectives, ranging from the ship’s captain, to the junior officers and warrants, to Jack Tars and the ship’s boys. The approach gives a much broader sense of what is going on aboard ship. It works particularly well in The Patriot’s Fate because it allows parallel and overlapping story lines that keep the novel moving along briskly.
In The Patriot’s Fate, Bond has been careful in choosing his history. The climax of the book is the Battle of Tory Island in October of 1798. Just over two months before an admiral named Nelson ruined Napoleon’s plans in Egypt at Aboukir Bay. The famous Battle of the Nile, as it has become known, is completely and refreshingly absent from The Patriot’s Fate. The story of that battle is wonderful but it has been retold so often, in so many other novels, that as a reader I felt grateful to be taken elsewhere. While the Battle of Tory Island was far smaller that the Battle of the Nile, it was no less consequential, leading directly to the Treaty of Union between England and Ireland.
In 1798 the Society of United Irishmen, lead by the charismatic Wolfe Tone, is ready to rise again against the British. The French are again assisting the Irish by sending ships and troops. As a French fleet of troopships and men-of-war bears down on the coast of Ireland, a single British frigate must delay them until help arrives to stop the invasion. By the vagaries of chance and heritage, friends and shipmates find themselves on opposite sides of the conflict. The sense of conflicting loyalty to friends, country and cause is especially gripping as the guns begin to fire.
Bond is especially good at creating believable and engaging characters. Readers of his past books will be pleased to be reunited with Captain Sir Richard Banks, Lieutenant Tom King, the Mannings and the unfortunate Irishman, Micheal Crowley, among others. New readers will be pleased to make their acquaintance. New characters like Betsey, the surgeon’s wife, clever and capable, if just a touch lacking in virtue, are also great fun.
The Patriot’s Fate is a gripping tale that is extremely difficult to put down. It left me sorry that it had ended and hungry for more. Highly recommended.