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At Drake's Command: The adventures of…

At Drake's Command: The adventures of Peregrine James during the second… (edition 2012)

by David Wesley Hill

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Title:At Drake's Command: The adventures of Peregrine James during the second circumnavigation of the world
Authors:David Wesley Hill
Info:Temurlone Press (2012), Paperback, 424 pages
Tags:fiction, historical fiction

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At Drake's Command: The adventures of Peregrine James during the second circumnavigation of the world (Volume 1) by David Wesley Hill

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Showing 1-5 of 7 (next | show all)
I did not particularly care for David Wesley Hill’s historical novel “At Drake’s Command.” I liked certain aspects of the book, but the farther I got into the book the more annoyed I became with what I considered to be its major flaw – believability.

The story is told by Peregrine James, a fictitious character. He is the twenty-year-old son of deceased parents, owners, and operators of a popular Plymouth tavern. Peregrine learned to cook from his mother and was employed as such by the tavern’s new owner. Learning that Peregrine (Perry) was in love with his daughter, the owner accused Perry of stealing a broach that had belonged to her and that she had given him. Victimized by false testimony, Perry was convicted of thievery. The novel opens with Perry receiving his court-ordered punishment, 24 lashes at the city’s public whipping post. Perry draws the attention of Francis Drake, about to be rowed to his ship, the Pelican, ready to embark on a mysterious mission. Drake has need of a specialty cook to entertain foreign dignitaries. Told later that Perry has demonstrated courage in receiving his punishment, Drake accepts him as a crew member. The story ends two and a half months later when Drake is about to leave the coast of Africa for the east coast of South America. Several dangerous events have happened of which Perry is an integral part.

The author does well enough the first 80 pages. I was willing to suspend belief about Drake’s acceptance of Perry’s request to join the expedition for the sake of reading what was to come and what I could learn about the factual aspects of Drake’s circumnavigation of the globe. I found Perry to be an engaging character. Convicted of a crime he had not committed, polite to his elders, honest, moral, intelligent beyond what might be expected of his station, courageous in his decision-making, he is the consummate hero.

Here is one example. Acting on his own as the ship cook’s assistant, locating the oldest barrels of meat in the Pelican’s hold to utilize first, Perry discovers that all four that he opens are spoiled. They have been stored deliberately where they would normally be opened last. Suspecting corruption, and premeditated sabotage of Drake’s mission, Perry believes he needs to alert his commander before they leave Plymouth. He knows that doing so would put at least one important ship’s officer under immediate suspicion. A young friend warns him: “God favors those with the most position and wealth.” Perry devises a way to overcome this handicap. He serves the rancid meat to the ship’s officers. Forced to explain his action, he tells them about the barrels, which they immediately investigate.

I liked the author’s characterization of Drake and his second-in-command, Thomas Doughty. Drake is entirely believable as a man of common origin who is calculating, adroit in managing any person regardless of station, decisive, and paranoid. Doughty is a gentleman callous or empathetic depending on what best serves his or Drake’s purpose. Lashing Perry to see how he receives real punishment -- Perry’s court-ordered lashing had been administered lightly -- Doughty stops after his sixth stroke. Asked by Perry why he had stopped, Doughty replies: “It was not my concern to punish you, Mr. James, but to test your courage. Having done so, I may now carry a good report to Drake. … I am a practical man, not a kind one.” Entirely unpredictable throughout the novel, Doughty intrigued me.

I was entertained also by Perry’s use of herbs and spices and food preparation to overcome encountered difficulties not related to meal preparation.

I appreciated additionally information the author provided about parts of the ship, facts I particularly wanted to know, details integrated into the story. Here is an example.

"The shrouds were rigging, six lines to a side, that provided the mast additional stability by pulling it between them. They attached to the mast just below the fighting top and fanned out downward to opposite gunwales, where they were connected to the hull by pulleys, which allowed them to be tightened or loosened."

After the first 80 pages, Perry’s extraordinary actions defy belief. A cook’s assistant, he is called upon too often to perform special duties. His behavior is too idealistic. What Doughty tells him late in the novel does not add plausibility: “Honesty is a dangerous principle when pursued without restraint. … An idealist is a person who follows his beliefs without concern for consequences.” I counted five times during the novel that Perry should have been killed. Why must a well-researched account of a significant, unique event in English history devolve into a fanciful tale of daring-do better suited as a mini-series for adventure-seeking television viewers desirous solely of vicarious entertainment? When I read a historical novel, I want to learn accurate information about the people and the time and I want also to identify with credible characters experiencing credible conflicts that illustrate insightful themes. “At Drake’s Command” half succeeds. ( )
  HaroldTitus | Oct 9, 2013 |
For those of you who love historical fiction this just might be the book for you. David Wesley Hill has created a character that is very believable. Young Perry James is found at the beginning of the book tied to a whipping post, preparing to be whipped for a crime of which he was innocent. He convinces Sir Francis Drake to take him onboard as a cooks helper. From this point on the adventures for young Perry grow. As the adventures grow we see him mature and grow. The use of metaphors helps paint a picture that uses all of the senses to bring the reader along for the ride. I believe this was most important as the book would be difficult to understand if you did not have a vast nautical vocabulary. The writing was so artfully done that I, a landlubber, was able to picture this vast ship. I could feel the breezes blowing through my hair and feel myself being tossed as the ship’s sails billowed pulling the ship forward. The adventure of the travel keeps you on the edge of the seat waiting to see what would happen next. For this reason I was please to realize there is a second book coming. All I can say at this point is let the adventure continue. ( )
  skstiles612 | Jun 17, 2013 |
I read the first couple of pages and thought, "Ho-Hum". Without realizing it, a few minutes later I was holding my breath hoping that the primary character would not fall into the sea. From then on, I was hooked and every spare moment was devoted to this book. An easy read but filled with facts interwoven with fiction - and truly believable. The ending? Oh, yeah.... If you like Hornblower et. al., you'd love this book. ( )
  minfo | Mar 5, 2013 |
Even a landlubber will heartily enjoy the sea-faring adventures of Peregrine James. We first meet Perry in Plymouth, England, about to be flogged for a crime he did not commit. The opening line, “It was as fine a morning to be whipped as any I have ever seen,” is typical of the wry humor that threads its way throughout the novel. Young Perry, in search of a better life, begs Francis Drake for a position on board his ship, the Pelican. Thomas Doughty, an authentic historical character who sailed with Drake, recognizes Perry as the cook from a local pub with tasty fare, and encourages Drake to take him on. Perry is told they are in route to Alexandria for trade, but even at the beginning of the journey, there are rumors that their voyage will take them thousands of leagues away from the Old World.

Clearly, the author, David Wesley Hill, has thoroughly researched Drake’s circumnavigation of the globe from every angle. The historic characters are painted in vivid detail, so that we encounter Drake as an inspiring leader of men and accomplished pirate, sometimes dressed in a sailor’s simple garb, sometimes flourishing velvets and silks. As young Perry learns his way about the ship, training as sailor and soldier, Hill describes every aspect from the sleeping quarters to the cannons, to the rigging, so that even those completely unfamiliar with ships get to vicariously experience life at sea.

Peregrine James is a charming lad, whose earnestness and sincerity constantly lead him into adventure and misadventure. There are pirates and Spaniards, Moors and harems, magicians and hangings to keep you entertained through this fast-paced and often amusing voyage. Frequently, Perry uses his talents as a cook to survive potential disasters, such as “inventing” pepper spray when he is cornered in the ship’s hold. Hill is as knowledgeable about cooking as he is about Drake’s historic journey and, shall we say, uses this knowledge to add flavor to the story line and character development.

At Drake’s Command is the first in a planned series and ends in as literal a cliffhanger as you can imagine. Readers will undoubtedly be clamoring for the sequel. ( )
1 vote bookfest | Feb 14, 2013 |
Showing 1-5 of 7 (next | show all)
This is a beautiful, beautiful novel.... If you are fond of sea adventure or pirates ... this is a book that deserves your attention.
added by dwhill | editHalf-Filled Attic (Dec 12, 2012)
"Hill is in good company with C.S. Forester and Patrick O’Brien"
A good historical read about a fascinating man!
added by dwhill | editA Bookish Affair (Nov 15, 2012)
I really enjoyed reading this book. It is incredibly well written, and the subject matter is very interesting. It's a very quick read, and it's also historically educational. I'm also going to say that the ending caught me completely by surprise. I never saw it coming, and it blew my mind. The entire book was really good, but the ending just put it over the top.
added by dwhill | editMilitary Dad Blog (Oct 8, 2012)
The reader is treated to several wonderful characters--some historical, others fictional--in this opening chapter.... Whether a main character or a secondary character, Hill has given the reader excellent first impressions of them all. Finally, the ending of this chapter is outstanding. It will definitely encourage the reader to turn the page.
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