Age of Sail / Margaret Muir / Nautical Fiction / Royal Navy

Floating Gold, by Margaret Muir

In this salty nautical fiction novel from the romantic Age of Sail, Margaret Muir introduces Captain Oliver Quintrell, a man with an intriguing background, extensive nautical skills, and a very good head on his shoulders. As we meet him, he is ashore, having been wounded and recently released from Greenwich Hospital and then stranded ashore due to the unexpected outbreak of the Peace of Amiens in 1802. He is a salty dog who has lost most of his fingers on one hand, an injury related to “direct contact with a four-pound cannonball.” Along with scores of other post-captains, he finds life ashore somewhat difficult – his marriage is not nearly what it once was – and eagerly awaits a new command and new orders.

Floating Gold is a nautical thriller that involves a well-plotted treasure hunt. Other nautical heroes too have been chasing treasures on the high seas and in exotic locations, most often Spanish galleons loaded with gold, but none of them – to my knowledge – have ever been chasing a treasure like the one that is featured in this book. It is an innovative and entertaining tale, rich in detail about England and life at sea, and a tale that is very well told.

Captain Oliver Quintrell had expected to be commissioned to a Royal Navy sixty-four gun ship-of-the-line or perhaps even a larger ship, but is instead given command of HMS Elusive, a frigate on a secret mission with sealed orders. As there is peace and ships are being decommissioned every day, he accepts the commissions even though he is disappointed.

The mission turns out to be very difficult. The Elusive encounters storms, treason, murder, and sabotage until they finally arrive at their ultimate goal – a treacherous island close to the Antarctic. And hidden on this desolate, dangerous island is a vast, very mysterious treasure of unknown origins that Captain Quintrell, his officers and crew must find and carry back to England. Can Captain Quintrell retrieve the cargo he has been sent to find and return with it safely to England?

The story is entertaining and excellently told. The book felt very authentic – Margaret Muir knows life at sea and has visited the mysterious and dangerous island in the story. Her background and travels show in her writing and gives a sense of reality to the fantastic scenes she describes. However, I felt it took a little too long before the action started, but when it did I liked the book a lot. There was also too little naval action in the book, I felt – but I tend to be a tad “bloodthirsty” when I read nautical novels. I also liked the hero – Captain Oliver Quintrell – and found him intriguing, but while I am quite convinced he has an excellent head on his shoulders, I am not as yet equally convinced that he has the balls to become a beloved nautical hero.

Floating Gold is an excellent nautical fiction debut by Margaret Muir. I hope she continues to write about Quintrell –a character that I feel has a lot of potentials.

If you like historical fiction, salty sea tales, or clever adventures, Floating Gold is a book you should get hold of – it is very entertaining, well written and intelligently plotted!


“Extremely satisfying” — The Historical Novels Review