Birds of Prey
Wilbur Smith
St. Martin's, 1997
ISBN 0-312-15791-6

Review by Harriet Klausner

Francis Courteney and his crew are sanctioned privateers with a legal document signed by the English king to harass and loot ships of the Dutch Republic. His fourteen-year-old son Hal has been sailing with him for over a decade. Eventually, Francis expects Hal to take over as ship captain and as a knight in his religious order. Francis and his men capture a Dutch ship containing a large gold shipment, an expensive manifold, and the next governor of the nearby town of Good Cape, Africa and the man's wife, Katinka.

Hal finds himself lusting over the beautiful but amoral Dutchwoman. She soon turns him into her sex slave. Francis sends one of his captures, the obsessive Colonel Schreuder, to obtain a ransom. While waiting for the return of the Colonel, another privateer, Captain Cochrane, visits Francis in his cove and demands part of the loot. Francis refuses to share his gain.

Cochrane leads Schreuder and the Dutch forces to Francis' haven. A fight breaks out with Francis and his crew captured. Soon, the English privateer is tortured and then hung as a pirate. Hal, with the help of the surviving crew members and a local female slave escape their captivity. They obtain a ship and set sail to join in the religious war in the Great Horn. Hal knows that he must one day confront both Cochrane and Schreuder, a fight that will leave someone, perhaps Hal, dead.

Wilbur Smith is quickly rising to the top of the historical nautical fiction genre. His third entry, Birds of Prey, is a superb action adventure with much romance that brings alive an intriguing bygone era in a locale (the non-Mediterranean African coast) rarely used in novels. Though this reviewer normally gets seasick when reading this type of book, this action-packed book is worth getting your sea legs and reading.

Copyright © 1997 by Harriet Klausner
Commercial reproduction prohibited without written consent of the author.

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