Genre: Historical Fiction, Military Fiction
Setting: The Ottoman Empire and the Black Sea during the Russian-Turkish War, 1877-1878.
First Sentence: Dawlish raised his head above the lip of the hollow that sheltered his small group of freezing, famished, exhausted men and saw the frozen clods of mud flying from the hooves of the horses thundering towards him, steaming breath pulsing from dilated nostrils, wicked lance points reaching before each wild right eye.
This novel is the first in Vanner's Dawlish Chronicles series. Like some historical novel series, we are introduced to the main character, not at the beginning of his career, but at a pivotal point in his life. Throughout this novel, the author leaves us clues about Dawlish's previous adventures.
Nicholas Dawlish has spent much of his life as an officer in the British Navy. Since he was not born into privilege, he has reached a point in his career when his prospects for advancement are few.
Now, Dawlish has left the British Navy and taken a commission in the Ottoman Empire's navy. The position pays twice his British Navy pay. Additionally, this commission will allow him to command a warship in battle. If he does well it may improve his chances for advancement if he should return to Britain.
The Ottoman Empire is at war with Russia. The Tsar wants to become a naval power in the Mediterranean Sea. Dawlish needs to use the meager Ottoman fleet to keep the Russians bottled up in the Black Sea. And he needs to disrupt the shipping that brings needed supplied to the advancing Russian Army.
Unfortunately, the Ottoman Empire is rife with religious and political intrigue. Although Dawlish has developed his navy into a dedicated group of sailors who would follow him into hell, he slowly realizes that his superiors are not to be trusted.
In the end, Dawlish and his sailors are fighting skirmishes on land as the Russian Army advances on Istanbul. If he and his men can delay the advancing Russians, the British Navy might take an interest and step in to stop the Russian onslaught.
And in the middle of the fighting, Dawlish needs to save Florence Morton, his love interest.
For me, I found the beginning of the novel slow going. The author uses a lot of Turkish words: place names, character names, military ranks, ship names, and some basic vocabulary. While this adds authenticity to the story, I found the plot a little hard to follow at first.
I liked Nicholas Dawlish. He is a realistic character who makes mistakes and has flaws.
I liked the battle scenes. They were exciting and well written.
For me, this novel was a good military fiction novel.