When two ships go to war

The Grey Raider
John Flanagan
Paperback, 512 pages
Published July 1st 2015 by Transworld Publishers
Two Captains, two ships - go head to head in a rip roaring battle fought on land and sea.

During the Civil War the Confederates are relying on the CSS Manassas and Captain Pelle to disrupt the Union supply lines by sinking ships and making sea travel as perilous as possible. Pelle’s success on the sea pushes up insurance rates and the Union needs to stop him. The Union turns to Captain Stacey of the USS Oswego. A man who is bull headed but determined to succeed at any cost to sink the Manassas. Adding to the intrigue Stacey and Pelle have a history that makes the battle very personal.

What a cracking read, action packed, intense and an intriguing battle of wits between two very different men. There is a lot to like about Flanagan’s Grey Raider.

Flanagan has done his research and he seamlessly takes you into this wonderful nautical world. You really do feel that you are on the deck of the ship, that you understand the intricacies of cranking up the steam engine and setting sail. The battle scenes are blunt and horrendous, necessary in their brutality of war but it is not gratuitous violence. As a story teller, Flanagan does not cram the research down your throat but is done so that it folds naturally into the events of the story. The events that unfold in France are fascinating as the two crews become entertainment for the local dignitaries as they become embroiled in local politics and subterfuge.
The characters are well crafted and imperfect. Pelle is seen as the nobler of the two men, his crew will do anything for him. Stacy is quick to react, quick to temper, unpleasant but fair. Both men are respected for their abilities on the sea and it is their stories that weave everything together. The supporting characters lift off the page and enhance the story. In particular Kitty the female Confederate spy, (who should have her own series) who is being followed by a brutish Pinkerton agent attempts to provide assistance to the Manassas. The crews of both ships are well realised and have their own unique voices.
Flanagan has made this story completely believable with great characters, lots of action and a really engaging read.

You can find more about John Flanagan at his website.