Book Reviews

Some of the reviews by people who have read my novels:

"With its multiple points of view and loving attention to detail, Alaric Bond's new seafaring novel reads very much like one of those British morale-boosting films from World War II. We have the honorable but remote captain, the severe but capable first lieutenant, the green kid still learning the ropes, and a huge cast of supporting characters. A scene of the gunner and his mates preparing for battle down in the magazine is a model of craftsmanship, and the engagement that fills the second half of the book, with its maneuvers, stratagems, and final, awesome slugfest, contains some of the most absorbing Georgian naval combat in years."

Originally published on Amazon.com

"Whereas most nautical adventure fiction follows the same general format - tracking the exploits of a young ship's officer, Alaric Bond takes a refreshingly different tack. His latest novel, His Majesty's Ship does not focus on a single hero but follows multiple officers and crew of the 64 gun HMS Vigilant. His range of characters and his use of multiple points of view makes the novel feel fresh, original, and competely authentic. It makes for a very fun read.

Bond's use of multiple points of view solves several inherent problems in writing about the Georgian Navy. One of my complaints with several of the authors currently writing is that their novels tend to be highly episodic. There is the need to find something interesting for the protagonist to do to hold the reader's interest. In Bond's His Majesty's Ship, the officers, crew and to a large extent the ship itself provide the action. The shifting points of view capture the constant bustle of life aboard the HMS Vigilant; from Matthew, the young volunteer, who is literally learning the ropes; to the friction in the wardroom between Lt. Rogers, a mediocre officer born of wealth and influence, and his less affluent fellow officers; to the challenges faced by Captain Shepard, who must mold his highly mixed crew into some sort of coherent team capable of surviving Atlantic storms as well as the French.

What is remarkable is that Bond pulls this off so gracefully. His characters start as vivid cameos who grow into well rounded individuals as the book progresses. These multiple points of view allow Bond to to develop a nuanced portrait of the complex social and political order aboard ship. Writers have often portrayed ships in the age of sail as one of two stereotypes. Jack Aubrey's ships are invariably a "band of brothers" while Melville's Whitejacket leans more toward "sodomy, rum, and the lash." Bond's HMS Vigilant is a wonderful mix from across the spectrum.

There are indeed Jolly Jack Tars, happy to be sailors; right alongside pressed men, angry with their fate; as well as Irishmen, caught by the press, who would be more than happy to bring their own rebellion against the crown in action aboard ship. Ambitious young lieutenants rub elbows with wizened petty officers. We see desertion, flogging, and attempted murder, as well as loyalty, courage, valor and wit. Rather than a single perspective, Bond's HMS Vigilant is a tapestry of both the competing and cooperative aspirations of the various and varied officers and crew.

Bond's writing flows easily. It is well crafted and stylish without calling undue attention to itself. I felt completely drawn into the book, into the ship itself, from the cramped and airless gundeck to dizzying heights of the cross-trees. I found myself reading slowly, because I was so enjoying the language, the characters and the real sense of being aboard Bond's HMS Vigilant.

I highly recommend Alaric Bond's His Majesty's Ship."

Originally published on The Old Salt Blog

"In his new novel His Majesty's Ship Alaric Bond once again grips readers with his detailed knowledge of the Georgian navy. In this prequel to The Jackass Frigate the earlier careers of crew members we have become familiar with are developed. From gundeck to quarterdeck, from powder monkey to Captain, we follow all divisions of the crew of HMS Vigilant, a 64 gun ship-of-the-line, as she is got ready for sea and then escorts a convoy. Ending in a climactic battle, the book, first in the 'Fighting Sail' series, fulfils the authors promise to "give an insight into the world of the seamen and naval officers who fought during the Revolutionary war" and will delight all readers of historic naval fiction."

Originally published on Historic Naval Fiction

"Alaric Bond's Jackass Frigate is comfortable and familiar while managing to be fresh and distinctive at the same time, not an easy trick to pull off. More than anything else, it is simply fun to read. I picked it up and literally had a hard time putting it down. While that may be a cliché, in my case, it was indeed true.

Virtually every work of naval fiction since Marryatt has followed a young officer; whether as midshipman, lieutenant, captain or admiral. Jackass Frigate is different. Bond uses a wide range of characters and perspectives from the gun deck, to the cockpit, to the quarterdeck. Eighteenth century men-of-war were the most complex, technologically advanced machines of their day, requiring a wide range of skills and abilities to function It took far more than the officers on the quarterdeck to sail and to fight. Jackass Frigate gives the reader a glimpse at the ship in action, from top to bottom.

Bond gives voice to topmen, gunners, surgeon's mates, landsmen and idlers, as well as to the midshipmen, lieutenants, the master and, of course, the captain. The danger to this approach is that the voices can become jumbled, which to Bond's credit somehow doesn't happen. He has the enviable skill of making each sufficiently distinctive to stand out while under way or in the heat of battle. The shift between the various voices and perspectives is remarkably smooth and seamless.

Jackass Frigate follows the newly fitted out HMS Pandora from her maiden voyage to join the Mediterranean fleet in 1796 to the battle of Cape St. Vincent. Along the way, the captain and crew they find themselves surrounded by a French fleet, the First Lieutenant is murdered, rumors spread of a specter aboard ship, and they must fight in desperate single ship combat and assist in a brutal fleet battle. We also rub elbows with Admiral Jarvis and a young Commodore Nelson.

Lively, fast paced, and cinematic in scope, Jackass Frigate is a truly entertaining read."

Originally published on The Old Salt Blog

"With The Jackass Frigate (2008), Alaric Bond has stepped into the first rank of writers of historic naval fiction. The story follows the fortunes of the officers and crew of the frigate HMS Pandora, newly built and commissioned, but smaller and more lightly armed than most. After an exciting bit of detached service, the Pandora joins the Mediterranean Fleet under Jervis in time for the Battle of Cape St. Vincent. Bond shows a deceptively easy mastery of the mainstays of Historic Naval Fiction narrative – ship handling, seamanship, shipboard life (both before the mast and in 'officer country"), gunnery, surgery, and above all, flawless descriptions of both fictional and historic battles. It is, however, the loving and thorough treatment of the principal characters aboard the Pandora that make The Jackass Frigate transcend mere adventure fiction. Many of the Pandora's people resemble the "stock" characters that, in the hands of lesser writers, stand as cardboard figures that serve only to carry the narrative forward: the sadistic first lieutenant, the rich young captain buoyed by "interest," the newly-made junior lieutenant, the japing-but-good-hearted midshipman, the drunken surgeon, the up-through-the-hawsehole master's mate and the heart-of-oak yeoman sailors. Under Bond's pen, however, each of these men – among others – takes on a real life. The reader comes to see each as a unique individual, to understand his feelings and motivations, and finally to care very much about him. Bond achieves this through the risky technique of frequently-changing points of view. The reader sees in turn through the eyes of most of the important shipboard characters – from the simple boy who tends the manger to the captain, and even Sir John Jervis and Horatio Nelson (well, eye, singular, in his case.) Shifting POV often makes me grind my teeth and sigh in exasperation, but Bond makes it seem sweet and natural. The charming narrative quirks, like the trope that brings us aboard Nelson's flagship in time for the battle, are worthy of Patrick O'Brian; moreover, they flow naturally from a well-established understanding of the characters involved. Bond's prose is clear and writerly with none of the awkward little lapses that pull the reader's attention away from the story. Alaric Bond has laid the groundwork for a great series of Age of Fighting Sail novels and I can only hope that the next one comes soon. I am mystified and disappointed that this book is not available in a handsome hardcover edition and marketed by a major publishing house. Editors take note – somebody has missed the boat on this one!"

Originally published on Astrodene's Historic Naval Fiction Forum

"Ripping stuff, enjoyed it immensely"

Originally published in The Old Salt Blog