Age of Sail / Book Review / Nathaniel Drinkwater / Nautical Fiction / Richard Woodman / Royal Navy

An Eye of the Fleet, by Richard Woodman

This is the first story in the Nathaniel Drinkwater saga. The starting point in time is 1780 to 1782, the time of the American Revolution. Nathaniel Drinkwater’s life at sea begins in the HMS Cyclops, which is assigned to deal with American privateers endangering British trade. This is a hard duty with tough fighting. If anything, the Royal Navy finds their American enemies to be tougher and more difficult to fight than other opponents.

There is a lot of action here, both aboard the ship itself and in the form of naval action against enemies. Drinkwater is assigned duty in a prize crew where the prisoners recapture the boat and is taken, prisoner. As well, he is sent on special service to the swamps of South Carolina. He is given ample opportunity to show initiative and courage and does so.

The Nathaniel Drinkwater series is a more realistic series than most of the other nautical fiction series. Among other things, in An Eye of the Fleet Drinkwater faces the threat of buggery and is harassed by a higher ranking midshipman. The evil within the navy makes its presence very much felt in this book. Justice is rough in the Royal Navy, and young Nathaniel Drinkwater has to find his own way to deal with that. He somehow manages to learn and cope with the various challenges, and gradually matures into a capable sailor.

An Eye of the Fleet is an excellent first book in the series, which sets high standards for the books to follow. It is hard and perhaps at times even grim, but even so very exciting and entertaining. Great nautical fiction!