In The Torrid Zone, Alaric Bond's latest novel in his Fighting Sail Series, HMS Scylla is due to return to England. Her crew is weary and the ship is in serious need of a refit. Yet, as soon as the ship reaches home waters, she is dispatched to St. Helena, a tiny island in the distant South Atlantic, with a cargo of East India Company gold and the new island governor, his wife and servants as passengers. What should be a simple mission becomes very complicated and dangerous with the arrival of a French squadron, brutal weather, a reckless diplomat, an enraged widow, and a murderous seaman — all set against the backdrop of one of the most beautiful and remote islands
in the world.
For newcomers, Bond's Fighting Sail Series is refreshingly rather different from conventional nautical fiction whose focus is on a single heroic character, usually the captain. The series features multiple characters and points of view which vividly capture the life aboard a Royal Navy man-of-war, from the lower decks to the captain's cabin. For fans of the series, it is great becoming reacquainted with the officers and crew of HMS Scylla once again. The choice of St. Helena is also a good one, because while important in history, the waters are a bit less well sailed in nautical fiction.
The Torrid Zone is a fine mix of action at sea and intrigue on land. Each has its beauty and dangers. Bond's characters are complex and believable, the pacing is brisk and the writing is delightful. The Torrid Zone is an excellent addition to the other fine books of the Fighting Sail Series. Highly recommended.