When we think of pirates, we tend to think of Caribbean pirates that are popular in fiction and in movies. They are swashbuckling rogues who are only looking out for themselves, booze, and treasure. We tend to think about the 1600s-1800s as the height of piracy on the open seas, but there were pirates that existed even earlier than that. In England, they were known as corsairs, and one of the best during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I was the suave and debonair Sir Francis Drake. Although he did circumnavigate the world and helped the English defeat the Spanish Armada, his story is rarely told in novels. That is until now. In the first book in his Elizabethan series, Tony Riches takes on the challenge to explore what Drake’s life was like and what kinds of adventures he took in order to protect his beloved homeland. This is Tony Riches’ latest novel, “Drake- Tudor Corsair”.
I would like to thank Tony Riches for sending me a copy of his latest novel. I have enjoyed Tony’s novels in the past and when I found out that he was doing an Elizabethan series and had a new book about Sir Francis Drake, I knew I wanted to read it. I did not know much about Sir Francis Drake and his adventures, except that he traveled the world and helped defeat the Spanish Armada before I read this book so I was excited to learn more.
We are introduced to Francis Drake when he is a young lad, dreaming of adventure and far away lands. He wants to sail the high seas, but things are not as picture-perfect as he imagined. He is involved in the slave trade, which is something that he comes to deplore later in life. Drake tries to think about the well-being of the slaves and will become friends with a former slave named Diego. However, Drake does contradict his own beliefs when it comes to slavery and taking someone’s life when his beloved country England is in danger from the Spanish, who he finds diabolical and does not mind attacking them whenever he discovers the location of their ships. This complex dynamic makes him more of a believable, three-dimensional character.
At the heart of this novel is the countless adventures Drake and his crew of corsairs partake in on different ships, including the famous The Golden Hind. As a connoisseur of Tony Riches’ novels, I know that he doesn’t do a ton of action sequences in his novel as he tends to focus on the relationships between characters, yet he is able to transport the reader into high action battle scenes where you wonder if Drake and his crew will survive. Since many Tudor novels tend to focus on England and Europe during the reign of this infamous dynasty, it is a breath of fresh air to explore the world with Drake and his men. Whether it is fighting the Spanish sailors or fighting indigenous people from far away lands, there is always a perilous adventure for Drake and his crew to embark on. What never changes is Drake’s faith and how his religious views are a constant comfort to his even when things become dire.
If I did have a small area of concern it would be that Riches does include modern names for locations and items found around the world so that modern readers would understand what is going on. I am not sure if the factual Francis Drake and his crew knew the names of these locations and mysterious objects while they were traveling or if the names came afterward.
Like any stellar novel by Tony Riches, he does focus on Drake’s relationships with the people who are closest to him. Drake was married to two different women, Mary and Elizabeth, and it is quite interesting to see how both women react differently to his life full of risk and danger on the high seas. Then there are his relationships in the Elizabethan court. Of course, there is his relationship with Queen Elizabeth I, since he is considered to be one of her favorites at court, yet it is not always smooth sailing for Drake. He also interacts quite a bit with William Cecil and Sir Francis Walsingham to make sure England is secure. Drake wants to be included in court life, but although he looks the part, he knows that he will never be one of the colorful courtiers.
Francis Drake has always been a side character, never the gallant corsair hero. Tony Riches has changed all of that. He has thrown open the doors to a colorful and treacherous world of the seas with his first book in the Elizabethan series. Drake is so real and raw. You can understand why he made the decisions that he did to protect his crew and his homeland. This is an absolutely captivating read that will bring the adventures of this distinguished Elizabethan corsair to life. If you want an enthralling Tudor historical fiction novel that takes you to places unknown and where there are dangers galore with a caring and charismatic hero at the heart of all of the adventures, I highly recommend you read Tony Riches’ latest novel, “Drake- Tudor Corsair”. A true triumph and a brilliant way to start a brand new series. I cannot wait for the second novel in this Elizabethan series.