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Under Enemy Colors

(Adventures of Charles Hayden #1)

4.12  ·  Rating details ·  2,018 ratings  ·  172 reviews
In the tradition of Jack Aubrey and Horatio Hornblower comes a new hero of the high seas-- Charles Hayden, lieutenant of the Themis.

Around the time of the French Revolution, Charles Saunders Hayden is one of Britain's most able naval officers, an ambitious young lieutenant born to an English father and a French mother. But despite his abilities and his unshakable loyalty t
Hardcover, 496 pages
Published September 6th 2007 by G.P. Putnam's Sons (first published August 31st 2007)
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Average rating 4.12  · 
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 ·  2,018 ratings  ·  172 reviews

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Tim The Enchanter
My #6 favorite read of 2013

A superb 5 Stars

A riotous high seas adventure filled with mutiny, inept leaders, cannons, court marshals and one entertaining half French, half English hero.

Many times during the reading of this book I stopped and said to myself "this is a superb!" I wasn't kidding myself. It really was. Personally, well written historical fiction is the best and most entertaining type of novel. Under Enemy Colors had all of the things that I look for in good HF.

The setting and cha
Jan 01, 2015 rated it really liked it
My first nautical novel since my reading Hornblower novels and Bounty Trilogy of years past. This one engaged my interest all through. The hero, Charles Hayden, of mixed parentage [French mother, English father] is assigned as first lieutenant to the Themis, under the tyrannical and "shy" [read cowardly] Captain Hart. I conceived Hart as sort of a mixture of Bligh and Queeg, but with his own peculiarities. The men are mutinous. Charles must contend with his captain and crew. There's much action ...more
This is no Patrick O’Brian, that’s for sure. But hey, it doesn’t have to be. Under Enemy Colours covers a whole different niche of the Age of Sail novel: It is more like a combination of an adventure novel and a crime novel, rather than straight historic fiction. Whereas your average volume of the Aubreyad might almost better be called a social novel, Under Enemy Colours sets its whole focus on telling a fast paced story with as many exciting episodes as possible.

The book is very honest and upf
Sep 29, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Is Under Enemy Colors predictable? Yes! Does the protagonist bear significant resemblance to Ramage, Bolitho, Hornblower, Aubrey, and every other hero with a series of adventures in the Age of Fighting Sail? Yes!

However, I prefer the writing style to that of O'Brian and place it right up there with my personal favorite, Alexander Kent's Bolitho novels. Russell's protagonist is, as you may have already guessed, another officer in the Royal Navy who has great courage and competence but little infl
Of all the naval fiction I have read so far this is by far my favorite book.

Charles Hayden is the product of a English father and a French mother. This is a reoccurring theme throughout the book as Hayden struggles to come to terms with a war that pits him against his beloved childhood home in France. The fact that he speaks flawless French does come in handy in many of the situations he finds himself.
Given the job of being second in command to a tyrannical, cowardly captain, he must find a wa
Jan 28, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Sean Thomas Russell was born in Toronto, Canada and now resides on Vancouver Island in British Columbia. Mr. Russell successfully has joined the ranks of writers of naval fiction. He joins many of my favorite writers in this genre such as C.S. Forester, Alexander Kent and Dudley Pope. His first novel UNDER ENEMY COLORS (ISBN 978-0425223628, trade paperback, $17.00) was published in 2007 and has recently been released as a trade paperback. The book is nearly 500 pages long. In the series, there a ...more
You could certainly compare this book to the work of Patrick O'Brian--but why bother? Sailors, cannonballs--but other than that? O'Brian's world is filled with richly imagined, deeply believable characters sailing oceans of majesty and terror and the profoundest beauty. This fellow Russell's sailors are lifeless wooden mannequins and the sea they sail upon is a place where dreary things happen but never anything unpredictable.

In the acknowledgments section--to be found at the rear of the book,
I am not a voracious consumer of naval fiction, I will admit that immediately. I know the basic facts of ships, like the location of the bow, stern, bilge...etc. Yeah, so this went just a bit over my head at parts. Luckily, I am not quite so bad with the time period and the ranks in the British navy, so I wasn't always lost. And, at times, Russell did make an effort to explain the more intricate words and phrases, so that was appreciated.

The plot itself was absolutely nothing new. Bad captain, m
David Eppenstein
May 01, 2015 rated it really liked it
This is the first entry of this author's Charles Hayden series. Unfortunately for me, I didn't discover this series until the third entry and then read the fourth before getting my hands on the first and second in the series. This book obviously sets the stage for the later volumes and is by far the most engaging of these books. It is a bit of "Mutiny on the Bounty" combined with "The Caine Mutiny". We have a tyrannical cowardly captain and a noble executive officer, an unhappy and abused crew, ...more
3.5 stars
Feb 24, 2009 rated it really liked it
A decade after the passing of Patrick O’Brian, the preeminent Napoleonic-era British naval novelists and successor of C. S. Forester, naval fiction lovers have to scour this slowly growing genre for the next great thing. For my part I have found Julian Stockwin’s Thomas Kydd series to fit the bill. But as my fellow Kydd-fans and I have to wait about a year or so between until the next book in the series comes out – a lifetime, if you ask me – I believe I have found another nascent series that lo ...more
Oswego Public Library District
Fans of C.S. Forester and Patrick O’Brian will enjoy this riotous maritime adventure. Faced with inept leadership, a mutinous crew, and the cannons of the French navy, the young, ripe, half-English, half-French Lieutenant Charles Hayden has much to endure.

Hayden is an attractive, competent, dark, moody naval hero. Sean Thomas Russell also adds a new flavor into the mix with his low social status and the fact that he has a French mother. From the lowest pressed man to the captain, Russell paints
Nov 16, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Napolionic Royal navy Fans
Another book dealing with the Royal navy at the time of the Napoleonic Wars. My personal favorite genre of all historical books, but then perhaps that is because I am a Brit :)

Without giving anything away this is the story of 1st Lt. Hayden, who is assigned a position to keep an eye on a problematic and somewhat un-courageous Captain. Said Captain has a lot of influence with the upper class and members of the admiralty, so that puts the hero between a rock and a hard place.

This is a good story f
Aug 26, 2011 rated it liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Justin Yan

This book provided me a bit of insight on the French revolution and the situation in the British Royal Navy. Basically a navy lieutenant is looking for a position as a captain or lieutenant. He find himself on a little ship with Captain Hart, otherwise known as "Faint Heart" in the middle of battle. The book was slightly complicated for me to understand as I am only 12, but it was a very classical read with English writing and not the usual American fictional writing I am used to. If you are ol

May 07, 2012 rated it it was ok
It takes some nerve, I think, to start a book off by describing a dark and stormy night. It may take even more to make the hero an English navy lieutenant in the Napoleonic Wars who has a French mother, a polyglot girlfriend who appears in an interminable dinner date in chapter 3 and who disappears until page 400, who has one eye blue and one eye whatever, and who gets by on 2 hours sleep a week. Russell takes the Forrester-O'Brian tradition and accentuates the pulp aspect. Highly readable, I'll ...more
28/1 - I really enjoyed this seafaring novel and look forward to its promised sequel. I felt like I was reading Master and Commander, although Dad said, after reading it too, that Master and Commander has even more detailed information about sailing the ship and the different ropes and decks, etc. I was surprised by how young he made Lieutenant Charles Hayden as I wouldn't have thought a man would've been made Master and Commander of his own ship till he was at least 30. I thought the romance be ...more
David Hull
Oct 05, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Brilliant! While all the seafaring, nautical terms and lore might normally be off-putting to an inveterate 'land-lubber' like myself, the story, characters, action, and intrigue make these nautical references all the more attractive. Apart from being a simply great read it offers much good counsel in terms of management and leadership skills. I'm looking forward to Russell's next novel - 'A Battle Won', already on my bookshelf! ...more
Jun 18, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Anyone
Recommended to Franklin by: A reviewer of similar novel
This is a great book. I cannot wait to get the other books in this series. At almost 500 pages it is longer than other books in this genre. It is the equal of books by others in the genre and better than some. I know this review is not very helpful, but if you liked Pope, O'Brian, and Stockwin, you should enjoy this author. ...more
Jun 25, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Fun read but somewhat simplified. The ending felt a bit rushed. Still might read the second installment of the series.
Jul 07, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
Fast-paced, full of good tensions and difficult relationships, this sea-faring adventure is good fun.
Oct 05, 2014 rated it liked it
A different take on the French Revolutionary era nautical adventure. Lots of introspection from the lead character. Less instantly likeable than the Aubrey/Maturin books.
Nov 01, 2015 rated it really liked it
A very enjoyable read! I especially liked how the author wrote in French during certain parts. Also for a book about a guy in the British Navy you spell it colours not colors!
Abigail Hartman
Jul 09, 2017 rated it liked it
The jacket flap declares that this book is in the tradition of Jack Aubry and Horatio Hornblower. First of all, it's Jack AUBREY, and secondly, can you really have a novel of the Age of Sail these days without it being in the tradition of O'Brian and Forester? I'm just wondering.

Jacket flaps aside (they're not the author's fault), an enjoyable story of British naval adventures set just after the outbreak of the Reign of Terror. It's rather more of a Mutiny on the Bounty story -- EXCEPT THERE'S
It's fairly inevitable that any nautical fiction set in the Napoleonic era is going to be compared to Patrick O'Brian's Aubrey/Maturin series - and you can certainly see the influence of O'Brian in this one. While the ship's doctor may bear some similarities to Stephen Maturin, the main protagonist, Charles Hayden, is an interesting and distinctive character. His Anglo-French parentage allows the author to explore a variety of emotional and political issues that would have affected his life both ...more
Feb 02, 2021 rated it really liked it
4.5 Stars

This was exactly what I needed. Hayden feels like something of a combination of Hornblower and Aubrey, with perhaps a touch of Sharpe thrown in. The writing is excellent, and reminds me of the Alan Lewrie Adventures, but Hayden isn't a little shit like Lewrie, so the comparison doesn't extend much beyond that.

Anyway, if you are a fan of nautical adventure, and you love your heroes to be noble and competent without feeling so perfect they're just annoying, I would highly recommend this b
May 26, 2017 rated it really liked it
He's no Jack Aubrey, but Charles Hayden is a pretty good hero. Hayden is half French and half English but he's chosen to fight on the English side in the war in 1793. His heritage is not helping his advancement in the King's Navy, but he has hope for the future until he's assigned aboard the HMS Themis and discovers the Captain is not only a tyrant but a coward as well. Caught between a mutinous crew and a worthless captain, he struggles with questions of honor and loyalty.

The naval battles are
May 28, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Never judge a book by its covers they say; I admit I was probably guilty of this. I picked this book up in a second hand bookshop several years ago as a second-class alternative for the series I was looking for and it's languished on my shelves ever since under the same misguided impression. But how wrong I was!
The writing is fairly mature, quick paced and gripping. The characters are generally pretty believable, although I'm not totally convinced by Wickham who seems.a bit too much of a goody-g
Jeff Powers
Jul 10, 2019 rated it really liked it
As enjoyable as anything Patrick O'Brien wrote. Fun action, interesting characters (many reminding me much of O'Brien's characters). I also enjoyed that the author purposefully chose an era not typically used for nautical adventures. Well recommended for anyone looking for more ship to shore adventure with an easier entry level and far less jargon than some of the older entries in the genre, while still having a firm grasp of the period and the history. I will certainly be diving into more of th ...more
Perry K
Aug 02, 2017 rated it it was amazing
While I don't read historical fiction that often, I happened to have a copy of this and the premise intrigued me. The main character has an excellent internal struggle, and the premise is, while not the most original, very engaging. The jargon, however, is where the book truly shines. It does a superb job of making the reader feel as though they are aboard an English ship in the 1800's. If historical fiction or naval fiction is your thing, this should not be missed. ...more
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A pseudonym used by Sean Russell

Sean Russel has co-written, with Ian Dennis, a mystery series called "Memoirs of a Bow Street Runner". The first volume of the series was published by Bantam under their joint pen name, T.F. Banks.

Sean Russell was born 1952 in Toronto. At the age of three his family moved to the outskirts of the city, where they lived in a cottage at the beach of Lake Ontario. At t

Other books in the series

Adventures of Charles Hayden (4 books)
  • A Battle Won (Charles Hayden, #2)
  • Take, Burn or Destroy (Charles Hayden, #3)
  • Until the Sea Shall Give Up Her Dead

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