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Britannia's Spartan

(The fourth book in the Dawlish Chronicles series)
A novel by

Sea adventures in the Victorian Era

This is the fourth volume of the Dawlish Chronicles naval fiction series - action and adventure set in the age of transition from sail to steam in the later 19th Century.

1859: a terrified 13 year-old boy has survived the shredding of a flotilla by enemy gunfire, the first defeat suffered by the Royal Navy for four decades. Now he cowers in a muddy ditch, waiting for the signal that will launch a suicidal assault on Chinese fortifications. It is Nicholas Dawlish's blooding in combat and its memory will stay with him throughout his future career as a naval officer.

1882: now a captain, Dawlish is returning to China command of Britain's newest cruiser, HMS Leonidas. Her voyage to the Far East is to be a peaceful venture, a test of this innovative vessel's engines and boilers. It should bear no relation to that nightmare of failure in China that Dawlish remembers since boyhood and so there is no forewarning of the whirlwind of land and naval combat ahead. But soon after arrival in Hong Kong Dawlish is required to undertake a diplomatic mission in Korea. It seems no more than a formality but he finds a country racked by riot, treachery and massacre and the focus of merciless international ambitions.

For a new balance of power is emerging in the Far East - Imperial China, weak and corrupt, is challenged by a rapidly modernising Japan, while Russia threatens both from the north. They all need to control Korea, frozen as it is in time and reluctant to emerge from centuries of isolation. British interests too are at stake and Dawlish finds himself a critical player in a complex political powder keg. He must take account of a weak Korean king and his shrewd queen, of murderous palace intrigue, of a powerbroker who seems more American than Chinese and a Japanese naval officer whom he will come to despise and admire in equal measure. And he will have no one to turn to for guidance.

Britannia's Spartan sees Dawlish drawn into fierce naval combat but action ashore proves no less deadly. Daring and initiative have already brought him rapid advancement and he hungers for more. But is he at last out of his depth?

Earlier volumes in this naval fiction series - Britannia's Wolf, Britannia's Reach and Britannia's Shark - have charted Dawlish's rise in the Royal Navy. As a boy in the late 1850s he has joined a navy still commanded by veterans of the Napoleonic Wars. But now, in the early 1880s sail is yielding to steam, new technologies are creating new weapons and established international power-balances are shifting. Against the background of real historical events Dawlish has to confront challenges inconceivable to earlier generations of officers.

"I've enjoyed sea adventure tales since I was introduced to C.S. Forester's Hornblower books when I was a boy," says author Antoine Vanner , "and I've never tired since of stories of action and adventure by land and by sea. The Napoleonic era has however come to the war and military genre but the century that followed it was one no less exciting, an added attraction being the arrival and adoption of so much new technology. I've reflected this in the Dawlish Chronicles and for this reason I'm pleased that nautical author Joan Druett has described me as 'The Tom Clancy of historical naval fiction.' The novels have as their settings actual events of the international power-games of the period and real-life personalities usually play significant roles. Britannia's Spartan is no exception to this and Korea's beautiful, scheming and utterly ruthless Queen Min central to the plot."

Genre: Historical

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