This book is a workmanlike account of the long sea war between England and France between 1793 and the capitulation of Napoleon. It’s worth reading if you’re interested in understanding that war’s shape in some detail, perhaps because you’re reading the Hornblower or Aubrey/Maturin novels.
The book’s great strength is that it puts the sea battles into a strategic context better than any other book I’ve encountered; Woodman’s generally able to tell you both what the British Admiralty expected when they sent a fleet–or an individual frigate–to a specific station, and what the opposing commanders were trying to accomplish as hostilities began. I really like that.
The problem is that the story often drags. While Woodman’s good at describing sea battles, in this sort of quantity they begin all to sound the same. As a result, I regularly found myself wishing he’d get back to describing the context. Really didn’t expect that.
This review was originally published on LibraryThing.