Sunday, November 4, 2007

Set the Seas on Fire by Chris Roberson

1808. While Europe burns and the Napoleonic Wars set the world aflame, the HMS Fortitude patrols the sea lanes of the South Pacific, harrying enemies of the British Crown. The Fortitude's captain sets his sights on a Spanish galleon weighted down with a fortune in gold and spices, but Lieutenant Hieronymus Bonaventure thinks the prize not worth the risk. The ship is smashed by storms and driven far into unknown seas, the galleon and her treasure lost in the tempest. Bonaventure and the rest of the Fortitude's crew find themselves aground on an island in uncharted waters. Beneath the island's beauty lurks a darker secret: an ancient evil buried at the living heart of a volcano.
Since reading books like the Josephine B. Trilogy by Sandra Gulland and the Temeraire Series by Naomi Novik, I have been very fond of books that cover the Napolenic Wars. I had an interest in it in school as well, but I had too many interests to cover everything in university. Being out of university is giving me the chance to cover everything I wanted to and never had the chance to before. So, Chris Roberson's book was my next chance at a good Napoleonic book. It really reminded me of The Lost World, an old movie I used to watch all the time. It was based on a book, but I liked it because it was cheesy. This book was not cheesy, but it did not have a lot of fantasy or sci-fi elements until the end.

My biggest problem with the book is the unsatisfactory ending. The book spent a lot of time on an island fixing the crews broken ship. It was a native island where they had to learn to interact with another culture that was very different than the one that they were used to. I think that Revolution SF says it best on the front of the book when they say 'Horatio Hornblower meets H.P. Lovecraft'. I can see this entirely. It was not necessarily a challenging read, and the book plodded along in some places, but overall it was interesting. I wish it had been more about the Napoleon war than in piracy and time spent on an island, though. I like a few wartime battles. I like how the era is getting a lot of literature about it the last few years, though. It makes for interesting reading.

The main character of this novel is Bonaventure. The story is almost entirely told from his point of view. We see his childhood where he learns to be a swordsman from one of the best. The present story weaves back and forth between the present and this time in his childhood. He likes adventure, which is made clear throughout this novel. His life also is shown on the island where he battles career, love, and his captains obsession with another ship. The most I can say about this book is that I wish more happened in it. Like I said above, most of the book takes place on an island, and then the big ending, I think, is a bit rushed. I do think this book is set up well to have a sequel, though. It could be the next Horatio Hornblower series. Whether or not that is the plan, I actually do not know!

All I can say is that if you like Horatio Hornblower, H.P. Lovecraft, science fiction, or the Napoleonic Wars; this is a book that you might want to take a look at! It also has a gorgeous cover!

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