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Would you listen to I, Walter again? Why?
I, Walter is a captivating story of valor and chivalry. This classic grand adventure takes you on the high seas and to exotic ports-of-call during the Elizabethan era when a boy acknowledges that he must change his stars and expand his horizons if he is to live the life that he wants to live--one that is quite different than the one into which he was born.
The narrator is Walter, who at the age of 67 years and possibly dying of malaria - in sixteenth century England- begins his tale of how he, like other boys of that era who lacked social standing, were "earning coin" as soon as they could be put to work to earn money for their family and find food, too.
After his older brother suddenly leaves home without notice, Walter does his best to help his family. But in doing so, he learns the reality of what life has in store for him if he continues down the same path as his father, whom he considers lethargic. He has often felt as if he was born into the wrong family. He decides that he must leave his family (now living in a hovel near London) or succumb to a disappointing life. He decides to take a chance to change his stars. He finds himself in Bristol, where he is commandeered into the Royal Merchant Marines as a lowly sailor. It was then and there that his adventures began.
Young Walter learns how to use the stars to steer the way the ancient mariners did, but he also is taught how to work with the Davis Quadrant, the latest advancement in navigational technology at that time. Meanwhile, the crusty old salts taught him the survival skills that he would need to survive at sea; they took a special interest that the boy could hold his own if their ship was boarded. They teach the young boy to fight with knives, swords, muskets, and cannons. Trading merchant ships, like the one that Walter served on, were hunted by pirates who are always plying the waters in search of booty--making "sayling" a most dangerous endeavor.
Walter narrates his encounters with the scoundrels in a way that makes us feel as if we need to dodge a cutlass or thrust a sword in the heat of a battle. Walter cannot seem to escape the threat of peril even on dry land. A mysterious thin man with a hat pulled down over one eye seems to be following him. And even more dangerous to Walter, he falls in love with the beautiful, but to his heart, unattainable Marie.
Walter engages us with tales of his sea adventures that took him to strange lands and introduced him to new trading goods such as sugar and tobacco along with excellent new wines and exotic spices. As we read Walter's memories, we smell the odors and aromas of foreign markets. We feel his strength and confidence building as he develops into a valiant, but humble, young man.
However, all is not glory and honor. Hartner, the author, also shares the brutishness and indifference of the times in the telling of I, Walter. The story nuances mature as Walter ages. We experience the travails of life at sea, the treacheries of traveling by land, the comforts of a familiar pub, and love's longing.
This action packed novel is destined to become a classic because it is a tale of noble innocence with a most refreshing, charming slant. Romance, adventures, mysteries, rescues, deceptions, along with vivid descriptions make this novel an enjoyable and inspirational read that will leave you wanting more. This reviewer is happy to know that I, Walter" is the first of the series from Mike Hartner.
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We meet Walter Crofter as an old man, 67, ill and possibly dying of malaria, determined to write down the story of his life, both what he did, and most importantly, why. He has secrets never shared, and wants his wife and children to understand.
Walter Crofter is the son of a cloth merchant in Elizabethan England, and his father's lack of business skill does not make life easy. His old patron, Sir Walter Scott is out of favor, his elder son Gerald has embarked on a life of crime, and the cloth merchant has little to offer his younger son but hard work with few prospects. Walter loves his parents, but he wants his work to count for something.
So he sets out, and, almost by chance, signs on to a royal merchant ship. The second in command, Bart, takes Walter under his wing and teaches him the skills of a sailor, and Walter over the next few years rises through the ranks.
He's also learning the skills of a merchant trader, and proves both lucky and smart. The luck is important, because life at sea in late Elizabethan and early Jacobean times is very, very dangerous. They fight the French and assorted pirates, and have many adventures, while Walter grows from boy to man.
I will say right now that, for an historical novel, the history of Spain in the late 16th and early 17th century, as related in this book, is absolute nonsense. I strongly recommend ignoring that, and just sit back and enjoy the story. Walter is an utterly engaging character, fallible, but loyal and decent, and it's his fundamental decency as much as his brains and his hard work that see him through the danger and challenges he faces. Because he is decent, loyal, and honorable, he attracts people like himself.
What is real in this picture of the times is the violence, the danger, the risk of disease at a time when medicine was at best primitive. This wasn't a time when the weak survived--and Walter Crofter is a very well-drawn example of moral decency as an essential part of strength, rather than a source of weakness.
I received a free copy of the audiobook from the author.