True Colours is the third installment in Alaric Bond’s Fighting Sails series. It is set in 1797 and deals with the very difficult period when the British Navy was more or less crippled by the mutiny at Spithead, the Nore, and several other harbors while being at war with the French and her Dutch allies. We meet again most of the characters from the previous book, The Jackass Frigate, including Captain Banks, Frasier, and Flint. And, of course, the scene is the jackass frigate HMS Pandora.
Pandora has been on convoy duty and returns around the time of the mutiny. The dissatisfaction that seems to be brewing everywhere even spreads to Pandora, and she is touched by the historical events and experiences an attempted mutiny. However, she escapes and is eventually ordered out to join the North Sea fleet under the command of Admiral Duncan.
The mutiny is actually a pretty sad affair. The mutineers’ claims were very reasonable and they behaved in a civilized manner, after having been more or less neglected by the Royal Navy for 150 years. The mutiny should never have been necessary. Bonds’ portrayal of the event is generally balanced and quite interesting.
In the North Sea, Admiral Duncan is trying his best to contain the Dutch fleet with a few old and worn out ships. His situation is so desperate that he attempts to pretend he has a much larger fleet by a cleverly organized ruse de guerre! As it turns out, that’s a difficult sell: the Dutch are much better informed than the Admiral assumes…
The Dutch take the time they feel they need to prepare, then move out. And when they do, one of the most famous battles in British naval history ensues: the battle of Camperdown. What a battle it was-with the Royal Navy outnumbered against the tough navy of the Dutch! Duncan’s tactic of breaking the Dutch line was later used by and attributed to Admiral Nelson. Alaric Bond’s description of this battle in True Colours is one of the best I have read. Bond is able to convey the overall development of the battle in an exceptional manner.
True Colours is a wonderful book, well-written, full of living, breathing characters, and lots of naval action. It confirms Alaric Bond’s standing as one of the best contemporary writers of nautical fiction in the Age of Sail. Also, the novel is quite suspenseful and very entertaining. Highly recommended.