No two persons ever read the same book. --Edmund Wilson

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

#68: Brethren: Raised by Wolves, vol. 1 -- W. A. Hoffman

First instalment of the 'Raised by Wolves' series, Brethren is a gay pirate romance: and like many romances it focuses on the emotional aspects of the plot to the detriment of the rest.

The novel's set in the 1660s. The Viscount of Marsdale ('duellist and libertine' it says here), down on his luck in Florence, returns to the family seat in England and is promptly packed off to Jamaica to set up a sugar plantation. Once in Port Royal, he finds the buccaneers -- the Brethren of the Coast -- far more congenial (and profitable) company than the other planters (and much more accepting of his preference for male lovers). Marsdale, now going by the name of Will, meets Gaston, a handsome Frenchman with a mysterious past, and ends up pledging matelotage to him. The two sail on the North Wind and pillage and plunder and rifle and loot. And so on.

I was hoping to like this novel rather more than I did. It's probably unfair to read a swashbuckling romance with a beady eye for historical detail -- and a great deal of the detail is accurate and well-researched, even if the novel occasionally makes heavy weather of that research -- but my sense of period took a serious knock when someone rode to Brighton in 1667, and another when they went to the docks there. (It's a fair assumption that a South Coast town would have docks, but in this case wrong: Brighton, as can be seen from old maps, simply didn't exist in 1667, though there may have already been an unfashionable and unremarkable fishing village named Brighthelmstone.)

The novel could do with a serious edit, not only for things like repetition and poor word choice (one expiates, not expurgates, one's guilt) but to even out the balance of plot and background, and to make the dialogue pacier and less reliant on attempts to transcribe dialogue and verbal tics.

Given all that, I do want to find out what happens, and how various plot threads are resolved. (Will Will ever return to England and his title? Will Gaston's morbid habits be 'cured'? Will the plantation prosper? Will the wicked cousin get his just desserts? Will there ever be hot sex?) However, the Raised by Wolves series is self-published, and the cost of the paperback is almost double what I'd expect to pay for a good-quality hardcover novel. Unless I find the other books second-hand, I suspect I'll never know how things work out.


  1. Clarsah6:02 am

    Hi there:

    Okay, maybe this is an international markup thing, but how cheap are hardcover books in England?? Because here in the States a hardcover book will run you double or more what I paid for this book on I saw your comment about the price and was floored.

    Just curious...

  2. Hi clarsah

    It may well be something to do with import charges as well as original cost. Brethren: Raised by Wolves was £17.99. The last hardcover novel I bought was The Mirador, by Sarah Monette, which cost me £11.55 on Amazon and that was more expensive than the average hardcover. I'd usually expect to pay £7-£8 for a paperback novel, £9-£13 for a hardcover -- £18 is steep for any book, especially a paperback.