In this gripping tale of turmoil and triumph on the high seas, Horatio Hornblower emerges from his apprenticeship as midshipman to face new responsibilities thrust upon him by the fortunes of war between Napoleon and Spain. Enduring near-mutiny, bloody hand-to-hand combat with Spanish seamen, deck-splintering sea battles, and the violence and horror of life on the fighting ships of the Napoleonic Wars, the young lieutenant distinguishes himself in his first independent command. He also faces an adventure unique in his experience: Maria. (from Amazon)
This is the second chronological Hornblower book, and it’s got a lot less mopey Hornblower running around. Why? Simple: it’s told from the POV of William Bush, another lieutenant who’s played by Paul McGann if you’ve seen the show. Lt. Bush is a very different character from Hornblower; he’s more straightforward, less inclined to introspection, and less forgiving of those he thinks inferior in some ways. There’s quite a few funny passages where he thinks Hornblower’s a coward or insane or what have you, because he (Bush) doesn’t really understand Hornblower until nearly the end of the book.
Seeing Hornblower from an outsider point of view was really nice, actually. I didn’t want to beat him about the head as much, because a lot of his melancholy nature was kept behind the barrier of Bush’s POV. On the other hand, it was a lot easier to see him for the (action) hero he is, because there’s no distractions via too much thinking. Bush sees Hornblower doing something heroic, Bush thinks “woah! that was awesome” (paraphrasing here), and then they move onto something else.
There’s tons and tons of action, and lots of tense near-thriller type stuff. The first five chapters are EXTREMELY tense, in fact, because of Captain Sawyer and how he runs the ship. I didn’t make it through those chapters the first time I read this book; at the time it seemed like it’d never end and the whole book would be all the officers wondering if they were to be hanged for an imaginary offense, which isn’t much fun reading for me. Still, I made it this time! And it DOES make for some exciting reading.
Probably my favorite part of the book is the section after the war ends and Hornblower’s living off of his wits in London. Not because of Maria, Hornblower’s future wife (she’s an abysmal female character, holy hell), but because Hornblower wasn’t on a ship (nor in jail) and he was interacting with people outside of the Navy! It made for a nice change after the first book, I guess.
Bush shows up in lots of other Hornblower books after this one, which is excellent because I think he’s a good character to put opposite Hornblower. Makes things more interesting.
Read: July 16-17, 2012