In the wake of a humbling incident aboard a canal boat in the Cotswolds, young Captain Horatio Hornblower arrives in London to take command of the Atropos, a 22-gun sloop barely large enough to require a captain. Her first assignment under Hornblower’s command is as flagship for the funeral procession of Lord Nelson. Soon Atropos is part of the Mediterranean Fleet’s harassment of Napoleon, recovering treasure that lies deep in Turkish waters and boldly challenging a Spanish frigate several times her size. At the center of each adventure is Hornblower, Forester’s most inspired creation, whose blend of cautious preparation and spirited execution dazzles friend and foe alike. (from Amazon)
This is the FIFTH book chronologically, which means I’ve lost track of the timeline again because I’ve missed two books. Why did this happen? Because my “Young Hornblower” omnibus is OLD, yo. I’m pretty sure it was published before books 3 and 4 were even written, which doesn’t help convince me that CSF is any good at coherent timelines anyway because if he WAS, I wouldn’t be confused about anything no matter when the book’s situated chronologically because he’d make sure to mention important stuff like, idk, how old Hornblower is. Helpful stuff like that. Sigh.
Anyway. Hornblower and the Atropos skips a few years after Lieutenant Hornblower; Hornblower’s a (rather young?) Captain now and he gets command of his first ship! Huzzah! Honestly, I’d been waiting for this to happen since book one. Hornblower’s the type of character that’ll excel at anything, if you give him the chance, and so it’s no wonder that he keeps climbing (despite setbacks). MIGHT be annoying if you don’t actually like heroes who succeed at what they were written to do, but whatever.
Hornblower’s back in the POV seat and this time he’s much less miserable. I actually liked him a lot more in this book. The first part was a little weird; he’s married to Maria now and he’s got two kids, and when he’s with them he’s cheerful and loving and just about as unlike his regular self as he can get. Then when he gets near a ship he changes into his Navy persona. You can SEE him reel himself back in from Navy into Husband, and it’s a little creepy. Maria seems happy with that, but then I don’t think she’s a particularly intelligent character. I kind of think SHE thinks that the real Hornblower is the Cheerful Husband one, not the Navy one. Hm.
As a Captain, Hornblower’s got a lot more authority (obviously) but that doesn’t necessarily mean he’s any more confidant in his abilities. That’s a little annoying, like when you’ve got a friend who, idk, got all A’s in high school and college but they still think they’re dumber than everyone else. Hornblower and your friend can’t see their own accomplishments because they’re always thinking of what they COULD have done than what they DID do, and while that makes for a very interesting hero it DOES get tiring after a while.
I think it was at this point that I started wishing for more character growth. Or, really, more DEPTH. Hornblower’s the protag, so of course he gets the most screen time. That’s understandable! But he doesn’t really grow as a character; he just levels up in his Navy skills after each book. All the other characters are just kind of there to give his surrounding coloring. I don’t think there’s a proper secondary character at all in this book– Maria comes the closest, and she only lasts a few chapters.
There ARE tertiary characters, though, and I suppose that’s better than nothing. At any rate, I’ll keep reading the series– I want to see Hornblower max out his experience points– but maybe I’ll just take a little break before moving on to the next.
Read: July 17-18, 2012
This is the last Hornblower book I’ve got on me, BUT I’ve just found a sort of biography or something of Hornblower at a used book store! I’m not sure if I’m going to read it just yet or not– I think it might be one of those things you’d get more use out of once you’ve read the entire series…hm.