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This is the first book of the Dawlish chronicles of which three exist though clearly from numerous flashbacks the author has carved out space for many prequels -- as happened with the Hornblower saga though Forester came slowly to the idea of back-filling the origins of his main character. There is so much of this that I had to check to see if I was reading the series out of order and it annoyed me from the get go. This is typical British naval genre with the twist that it involves ironclads. How cool is that. I only know of the Hazard saga by Stuart that takes place in Crimea that compares. Unfortunately there is very little description of life and battle aboard 19th C. ironclads in this book as most of the action takes place on land. The Turkish leaders are stereo typically mendacious but we are supposed to like the commoners. I couldn't tell them apart in this book. Vanner seems to be copying Forester in making his protagonist a tortured idealist forced to accept social pressure to reject the commoner he loves. The love angle is perhaps the most tedious part of the story. As for narration, Doersch is merely competent . The American accent jars against his "British" voiced characters and it sounds like an American doing stock impersonations of Brits. The results are often over the top and the voice of Dawlish is particularly awful. A better matched narrator would have greatly improved this book, but still not completely rehabilitated it. The fact of the matter is this was an uneventful period in terms of naval history. Vanner would have done better to have started with his prequels.
What made the experience of listening to Britannia's Wolf the most enjoyable?
The choice of setting - unusual for a naval adventure but fascinating because it deals with a time of massive technological change. I was intrigued by so many historical details - the early torpedoes and the Popovkas especially. The central character is believable and sympathetic though the narrator's unconvincing 'British accent' tended to make Dawlish's speech sound forced, strange and artificial at times which jarred and affected the characterisation
What other book might you compare Britannia's Wolf to, and why?
I'd compare it to Jules Verne - historical setting and the fascination with technology of the time - also the timings and suspense in the narrative. The author's enthusiasm and research of 19th century technology really shines through. However it is also about warfare and Dawlish - with his humble beginnings and intelligence, his passion for the sea and ships, not to mention a strong moral sensibility - has a pleasing family resemblance to other great naval action heroes like Hornblower, Bolitho and Aubrey.
What do you think the narrator could have done better?
The narrator has a lovely voice which I could listen to for hours ... he reads expressively and with feeling. He's a great reader/actor - he really is - and I like him and would like to hear more read by him and I'm sorry to criticise but... He is an American. In itself that wouldn't be a problem except that - like nearly all Americans - he can't quite manage convincing British accents. Why choose an American narrator to read a story about a British sea captain with characters who are all British, Turkish or Russian? It's a puzzle. As odd as if a British narrator was selected to read the Jack Reacher novels or Raymond Chandler. But I suppose the book is being aimed at the US market? In which case they will expect to have a US narrator and wont notice the glaring aural flaws and impossibilities which set teeth on edge this side of the pond.
Did you have an emotional reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?
Some parts were sad and others wonderfully life-affirming. There was great hardship and heroism in it which does affect the reader's emotions.
Any additional comments?
Great book - looking forward to reading or listening to more by Antoine Vanner.