In the first chapter of The Sea-Hawk, Rafael Sabatini whispers the broad outline of his plot just loudly enough that dedicated novel readers will catch it. Tte foreshadowing barely has time to register before Sabatini plunges his 16th century hero into an adventure that shows off his thoughtful, complicated personality as well as his biceps.
The story starts out in traditional romance fashion.
Sir Oliver Tressilian repaired his family’s fortune by preying on the Spanish Armada. Now he wants to marry but Rosamond’s brother, Peter Godolphin, doesn’t want her to wed a pirate.
Oliver’s half-brother murders Peter Godolphin, then covers the murder by having Oliver kidnapped and sold as a galley-slave. Oliver’s disappearance looks like an admission of guilt.
When fighters of the Basha of Algiers take the ship, Oliver turns Muslim. His prowess in attacking ships of Christian nations wins him the name Sakr-el-Bahr, Hawk of the Sea.
Learning Lionel is to marry Rosamond, Oliver seeks revenge. He makes a raid on Cornwall to abduct Lionel.
The raid raises questions about Oliver’s loyalty to Islam. The wrong answer would mean death.
The plot sounds rather Errol Flynn-ish, but there’s no hint of central casting in Sabatini’s characters. They react and develop in psychologically plausible ways.
You need not be fan of nautical thrillers, to enjoy The Sea-Hawk. It is worth reading just for its insights into Islamic culture.The Sea-Hawk by Rafael Sabatini 1923 bestseller #10 Project Gutenberg EBook #3294
Photo credit: Pirate Ship at Sea by KBlack
© 2013 Linda Gorton Aragoni