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Many of the authors listed are good but some are better than others. For me Patrick o'Brien stands head and shoulders above the rest. I often try to decide why and I think it is realism. More than any other author POB's characters inhabit the period he is writing about. They have lives outside the navy and spend considerable time outside of the relevant ships. When I read POB it is the closest to what (probably) actually happened (especially as he grabbed most of his plots from actual events that occurred from the major Cochrane antics to Riou, Rowley etc. It even goes beyond the primary story streams as several of his sub-officers tales are lifted from the navy chronicles (i.e the Dillons tale of how he fought of several privateers in the first book). His character also make mistakes and have major weaknesses that other James Bond like heroes dont have. On the other hand people who are reading for castle building or continual excitement may found it a little gentle for their tastes. With O'Brien I would recommend reading the first chapter and if you like the interatcions between Jack and Maturin then you will love all of it. If that leaves you dry then stick the others.


Of the others Hornblower is excellent though he is not as good at the 'world' as POB. He is the gold standard of pure heroic naval fiction.


I loved Kent and Bolitho when I was a lad but when I grew up found his books were more generic than the above two. I have said before that you could replace the French with 'Zargling aliens' and the ships with space ships very easily and you would have a good sci-fi novel. Kent writes what I term as heroic fiction much like Sharpe. If you like that then good for you.  I found that when I knew very little of naval sailing warfare that he seemed very knowledgeable when I knew more I was less impressed and realised how divorced from the world it actuallty is especially when I discovered POB.


I have read several Kydds and they are okay but I have never felt the need to re-read any.


Sean Thomas Russels books were an irritation to me. They swung more from heroic fiction to spy heroic fiction.


I initially enjoyed the John Pearce series by David Donachie. Like Kidd the hero starts as a press ganged sailor and also like Kidd very rapidly indeed gets promoted. A curious side-plot with the Pearce books is that a large portion of the book is written from the perspective of his imcompetant first commander who thinks he is great but isnt. Donachie also likes name dropping a lot with more actual historical personages visiting (Nelson keeps popping up). As with most naval fiction the plots were too contrived to be realistic to my mind.


Finally most of the authors above (with POB and Hornblower perhaps excepted) follow a very similar template. The officer above, of whatever rank, is usually incompetant and the hero will save the day against all odds. Which is fine but I have found a couple of books which go heavily against the grain of that in their structure the first is Alaric J Bonds 'His majesty's Ship'  This is written in disconnected pov style so the chapters split from captain to officers to sailors to landsman to tell the story. I found it refreshingly different and it gave a much better picture of a naval ship than any other book read. (If you want a picture of a naval ship as an officer/gentleman would see it then POB wins by a country mile).


The second is older and doesn't involve much fighting and is William Goldings 'To the Ends of the Earth' - this is a three parter concerning the voyage of a well educated man to take up a position in Australia on a naval ship of this period. It also has a good mini-series with a young Benedict Cumberbatch in the lead role which is well worth viewing.




All my opinion and others tastes naturally may differ.

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