Adult / YA / Audiobook / Historical Fiction / Adventure
I gave this book 4 of 5 stars.
A dying Walter Crofter feels compelled to tell his story, which is a sweeping and swashbuckling tale of rags to riches that takes listeners across oceans and continents in the late 16th/early 17th century.
Walter is one of those guys who seems to have extraordinary luck and timing, and even in the most dire of circumstances, he turns out smelling like roses. This is not to say that the story lacked action or drama -- there is plenty of both -- but given how the story opens, there is never a question of whether things will turn out fine or not. Walter encounters adversity and obstacles time and time again; there are pirates, thieves, and traitors, and of course, a woman's love that Walter thinks he must earn. But truly, what causes the most trouble for Walter is his own mind and his misplaced guilt.
There are many storylines -- including an ongoing mystery of sorts -- and a wide group of richly drawn core characters cast in an extensively detailed world; and this is where author Mike Hartner really excels. In his world building, Hartner provides readers with vivid descriptions so that they can visualize the settings, whether on the deck of a ship or in a pub found in port (though I wonder if there couldn't have been a better name for the tavern than "The Drenched Seaman." I kept hoping I was mis-hearing it.) The level of description allowed for real immersion into the story, especially in the battles.
Though the book is pitched as Young Adult -- and I think it's perfectly appropriate for that audience -- it really seemed more suited to an adult audience. The story does take us through the life of young Walter, but he was always more level-headed and mature than one would expect of any male of his age, and the story takes him well into marriage, children, and old age. I am just not sure if most modern teens will relate.
A NOTE ABOUT THE AUDIOBOOK FORMAT: Listeners, be prepared that the audiobook lacks the polish of professionally narrated books, so it's much like having a family member reading to you -- stumbles, stomach grumbles, mumbles, and all. Not a bad thing, but it takes some adjusting. Author Hartner narrates himself, and he has some odd pronunciations and voice drops, which sometimes make it hard to understand. Some characters were voiced well and consistently, others weren't, and transitions between the present/old Walter and the past/young Walter were often abrupt or hard to recognize. I think perhaps reading it would have been better than listening because even in the most intense of battles and most emotional of moments, there wasn't much change in the voice of the narrator.
Thank you to Authoramp, for providing me a free audiobook in exchange for my honest review -- the only kind I give.
him on TWITTER.
Book two in the series, I, James, which follows the life of one of Walter's sons, has now been published. Check it out on Goodreads!