Monday, April 19, 2010

Sea Robber

Sea Robber is the 3rd of The Adventures of Hector Lynch, Pirate by British novelist and adventurer Tim Severin.

The first 2 books in the series (Corsair and Buccaneer) cover the earlier adventures of Hector Lynch, a young Englishman who is kidnapped from Ireland by Moorish slavers, and becomes a pirate on the high seas in the latter half of the 17th century. In Corsair readers see how Hector befriends the adventurous Miskito Indian Dan, and the wily French pick pocket Jacques Bourdou, and becomes a pirate. Buccaneer introduces the 4th member of Hector’s crew, former British prize fighter Jezreel and the love of Hector’s life, Maria. Buccaneer left Hector in England after a narrow escape with the gallows for piracy, pondering his next move and wondering if he would ever see Maria again.

At the beginning of Sea Robber Hector and his 3 friends are working on a Danish slaver; the Carlsborg, off the coast of Africa. Hector encounters a former ‘acquaintance’, the pirate captain John Cook. Cook forces Hector and his friends to jump ship and work for him by capturing and threatening Jacques.

Cook intends to continue his piracy off the coast of South America and needs a talented navigator like Hector to get him safely around Cape Horn. Hoping to connect with Maria Hector goes ashore in Peru, he and Jezreel are marooned there by Cook, and they learn that Maria moved to the Ladrones, also known as the Thief Islands (near the Philippines) with her mistress and her highly ranked husband.

Hector and Jezreel manage to meet up again with Jacques and Dan and make their way aboard the Nicholas, commanded by Captain Eaton to the waters of the Pacific. They first land on an island near Japan, that is ruled by a samurai warrior, they are allowed to leave only when Jezreel bests a samurai in armed combat.

From there they find the Ladrones, and after encounters with the local indigenes; the Chamorro, Hector does meet with Maria, and to his joy finds that she is still deeply in love with him and happy to steal away with him. After a harrowing journey on a plague ship, they arrive at the court of a Muslim ruler who wishes to keep Maria as part of his harem. Hector wins Maria back from the Muslim, and along with his 3 friends they set off for Malacca, trying to find a place where they can forge a life together.

Sea Robber is a diverting enough historical adventure, and if Corsair and Buccaneer entertained you this would be worth considering. Hector does have other adventures in his life, but for mine they’d need to be better written than this to inspire me to pick them up.

Severin knows his subject and is historically accurate, but he’s written this as if it were a series of basic history lessons loosely linked by a continuing narrative. It’s a largely disjointed story and while it’s readable it’s not all that riveting. The other problem is his two dimensional characterisation. Hector is the typical romantic fiction hero, young, handsome and daring, hardly done by and just happens to have the right skills for whatever situation he finds himself in. Dan is the loyal friend, who like Hector conveniently seems to have abilities that suit what and where the two men are. Jacques is comedy relief and often works on the ships as a cook, although the descriptions of the dishes he can make from the most basic of ingredients make me wonder why he isn’t in the kitchen of a 3 star Michelin restaurant. Jezreel is the muscle of the group. Maria is Hector’s female equivalent. It is possible to write an entertaining historical novel using characters who have depth and move within the confines of a tightly written adventure. Maybe Tim Severin needs to read some Bernard Cornwell or George MacDonald Fraser.

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