Corsair by Tim Severin is the first novel in the Hector Lynch series. In this book, Hector is kidnapped by corsairs and enslaved. Hector needs to grow and adapt to survive, all the while searching for his sister who was kidnapped as well. It’s an incredible adventure with harsh realism that can only be found in historical fiction.
Here is my spoiler-free review of Corsair!
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A Short Summary
First, let me give you a summary of the story.
Hector Lynch is an Irish lad who is abducted in the night by pirates, or corsairs. An event that happens in the very first chapter and kicks off the adventure without a moment's notice. Much like Hector, you are caught by surprise as the story's inciting incident takes you from someplace comfortable to someplace foreign and hostile.
Hector is sold and put into slavery. His only hope of survival is to make the right friends as well as the right choices. From beginning to end, Hector’s neck is on the line and you are made fully aware of this.
It’s a journey that takes him to many countries, which are fantastically described by Tim Severin throughout the story. All this takes place in the early 1600s, giving you insight into the politics at the time as well as information on a few historical figures.
Now, this is only the first book in the series. Upon further research, there are four in total. So, with that said, the events of this novel are only the start of Hector’s adventures.
There are three characters worth discussing.
First and foremost, we have Hector Lynch himself. Hector is a young man, intelligent and strong. While not the best fighter, or the most cunning mind, he certainly has a knack for making friends and adapting to survive. It’s this survival instinct that is underlined in many scenes.
However, the stresses of the story are really on the events that transpire. Any deeper looks into Hector’s emotional state and personality are few and far between. I will give more of my thoughts on this later.
Secondly, we have Dan.
Dan is the first friend that Hector makes on his journey. Also enslaved by the same people, Dan helps Hector survive and the two soon come to depend on each other as the story progresses.
Dan is level-headed, a born survivor, but like Hector, he needs others to stay alive. While Dan does not have the education of Hector, he certainly has ‘street-smarts’ and skill with a rifle.
Finally, we have Jaques.
Jaques is a French prisoner that joins the group a little later in the story. Older, but certainly not wiser, Jaques is a thief with a skillset that aids the protagonists throughout the story.
As Jaques appears later in the novel, there isn’t much more to discuss in regards to his character. Like Dan and Hector, he has an interesting upbringing. Together, they are a band of underdogs doing what they can to survive and perhaps, thrive.
The Writing Style
Tim Severin is certainly one of the more descriptive writers I have read recently. He does focus on the story when necessary but has no problem with straying from the story to set the scene and atmosphere with a collection of historical and political facts.
Overall, I found the style satisfying for this kind of story. It is an adventure, one certainly having its tense moments, but the level of historical accuracy that Tim Severin uses separates you enough to make it more relaxed. It easily glides between these changes in tone and focus, which shows Severin’s experience as a writer.
I believe the style keeps one invested in the story, while interested in the factual side of the novel. Of course, that’s exactly what one hopes for from any historical fiction and Tim Severin delivers!
Personal Thoughts on Corsair
From beginning to end, I was hoping to get more out of Hector. I felt Hector easily fell into the role of the ‘bland protagonist’ as the story went on, which made certain scenes in the story a lot less impactful. I didn’t have that level of attachment to the character, despite all that transpires throughout the story.
If anything, I was begging his character to be a bit more standout. To do things that make him a lot more interesting. I found this only really happened near the end of the first book, which has me a little excited for the next in the series, Buccaneer.
However, as I stated earlier, focus tends to shift from the story. It does to set the scene and establish the mundane for realism’s sake. It might be partly due to this that the main characters are pushed to the background. When you are given a bigger picture look at the story often enough, you don’t appreciate the smaller details, such as the main characters.
Despite this downside, it wasn’t so bad that I couldn’t sympathise with Hector. I just felt he could have been a lot more special. Either in terms of ability or personality, to set him apart from other characters and rightfully establish himself as the main protagonist.
That might be exactly what happens in the future books!
Overall, I enjoyed Corsair. The story was good, the variety of characters and scenes served to make it realistic and investing. Severin did an excellent job in telling the story and made it a book certainly worth reading.
As I said at the start of this review, there are plenty of harsh moments that make the story all the more striking. Perhaps I am soft-hearted when it comes to certain matters, but I felt they did a great job of establishing a realistic and unforgiving world that Hector has to contend with.
I recommend Corsair by Tim Severin to any readers who enjoy good historical fiction, or a story of someone facing some of the most dangerous situations in the early 1600s.
I hope you enjoyed this review and as always,
Good day, goodnight and happy reading!