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Slave to Fortune

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“One of those books that brings to life a piece of the past that’s little known… It has the feel of a classic.” – The Glasgow Herald

Slave to Fortune is an award-winning historical novel. Tom Cheke’s world is turned upside-down when he is kidnapped from his home by Barbary corsairs during an audacious night raid.

Sold into slavery in seventeenth-century Algiers, Tom carves out a new and promising life only to have it shattered once more. Another twist of fate throws him into the hands of a Scottish knight of the Order of St John and into a turbulent world of ciphers, spies and assassinations.

This is a remarkable account of how a young man comes of age, grasping life from the setbacks of fortune. It is a tale of friendship and reconciliation, of intrigue and deceit, in which trust is betrayed and deep-rooted beliefs and values are cast into doubt.

In Slave to Fortune, DJ Munro skilfully captures a bygone era of galleons and gunpowder as the plot twists from the alleyways of Algiers, through the splendour of Malta and the canals of Venice, to maritime Portsmouth and the rustic charms of the Isle of Wight.

With echoes of Robert Louis Stevenson’s Kidnapped and J. Meade Falkner’s Moonfleet, Slave to Fortune is an uplifting, intelligent adventure that will keep readers enthralled.

Suitable for all ages from young adult upwards, Slave to Fortune was a #1 bestseller on Kindle (UK) for Historical Thrillers in October 2017 and a #1 bestseller for YA Historical Fiction in April, May and October 2017.

The novel won the Grand Prize for young adult fiction at the Chanticleer International Book Awards (2017) and was also a first place winner for historical fiction.

364 pages, Kindle Edition

First published April 24, 2015

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About the author

D.J. Munro

1 book20 followers
DJ Munro grew up as one of eight children on the Isle of Wight, off the south coast of England. After high school, he headed north to university in Scotland to study English literature and also holds degrees in economics. He now lives in Edinburgh with his wife and three children and is an official in the Scottish Government.

He has enjoyed a varied career to date, working with some of the biggest names in British and Scottish politics. His work has taken him across the Middle East and Africa, to China and Japan, Europe and the USA. He has worked on areas including crime and justice, housing, energy, tackling poverty and inequality, economic policy, international finance and COVID-19.

His novel writing has a traditional style, drawing influence from classic authors of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, including Scottish authors such as Robert Louis Stevenson and Neil Munro. Into his writing he injects modern themes, ensuring relevance to readers today.

Years of late-night research and writing resulted in his debut novel – Slave to Fortune.

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5 stars
341 (55%)
4 stars
190 (30%)
3 stars
64 (10%)
2 stars
13 (2%)
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5 (<1%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 56 reviews
Profile Image for Dave.
42 reviews1 follower
March 9, 2017
Probably one of the best books I have read . Full of historical fact ( as well as a good dose of fiction ) .One of the few books to mention the Barbary corsairs who enslaved thousands of white christians , many of whom were kidnapped from Dorset , Cornwall and Ireland. In some cases whole villages in Southern Ireland were decimated . A lot of this has been airbrushed from history because of political correctness and the assumption that all slaves were black and African.
Profile Image for Wytzia Raspe.
475 reviews
February 10, 2020
One night when a young 14 year old English boy is sleeping in his bed the door of his English home is kicked in and he is taken captive by Murat Rais an infamous Dutch renegade who is a captain of the Barbary corsairs, the Muslim privateers from the coast of North Africa.
Taken to Algiers he is sold as a slave to a high public servant. But that is just the beginning of a long adventure to bring him back home.
It is obvious that the author had done a lot of research. The book is full with historic people and real facts that are woven in a tale of coming of age. It is a very unbiased story without xenophobia. in an age where Muslims and Catholics were not the usual friends for protestant Englishmen he finds friends and father-figures in both camps.
The book is a real page turner although the Algiers part intriqued me most but that is because I am also reading the on-fiction account of a raid by Murat Rais on an Irish village and I wondered there if the writer was not painting a too rose coloured version. But like what happens in this novel it depended a lot on who bought you.
A tale that is an interesting read for 16+.
1 review1 follower
October 11, 2015
A gripping read with wonderful, sumptuous imagery to dine on. This exciting story takes you on a wonderful journey , meeting memorable characters along the way. If you fancy a bit of swash buckling excitement written by someone who has clearly swatted up on historical details , then you must read this!
Profile Image for Herman.
494 reviews20 followers
February 26, 2020
Fantastic first book, excellent research well written plot reads like a classic page turner of a story. Can't get over it's this author's first novel. Like being a rookie in the NBA and in your first game you score 65 points, off the charts good first effort. So the plot follows the kidnapping to three children by Islamic pirates from the isle of man in the early 1600's. The children are taken to Algeria and enslaved then in the style of a Somerset Maugham story up from the bootstraps fashion the protagonist Thomas Cheke just a young teen at the start of this story, raises himself and others up out of their adverse situation and as fortune favors him his story becomes an adventure that takes him across the Mediterranean to a final dramatic conclusion back in England. Five stars and since I read this on my Kindle now I'm going to order a book copy for myself to keep in my library. So Good I'll pay for it twice.
45 reviews
April 18, 2017
I really enjoyed this book it truly puts you in the time period, and shows you the harshness of the time period. this book is full of great historical facts that you don't normally hear. This exciting story takes you on a wonderful journey , meeting memorable characters along the way. tom was captured in a night raid and sold in to slavery. after he carves out a new life he is once again captured but this time by a knight. it is great to see the perseverance that tom has through the book.

this was a very good and captivating book. it is very easy to sit down with and to fall into, you wont want to put it down. this is probably my favorite book I have read in this class.

I could use this in my class in several different ways, the main way would be to let my students experience the hardships and life in the seventeenth century. this book is so detailed it feels like you are actually there. this would also be a good read to give a student that loves history. you could also hand this to a student who isn't quick to read, this book will certainly draw them in and keep them interested.
Profile Image for Nightwings81.
59 reviews2 followers
March 27, 2018
I happened upon this book through an amazon search and, after reading a sample, I immediately purchased it to finish the story. This is different from my usual preferred genres, as I tend to read high and urban fantasy, with a smattering of travel essays and nature books thrown in. Historical books aren't my forte, but I really enjoyed Munro's descriptions and was able to truly feel Tom's fear and confusion as he was dragged from his home in the middle of the night and forced aboard a ship. His descriptions of Tom's descent into slavery was visceral and raw, not holding anything back from the horrors of losing one's freedom in a strange place, faced with an uncertain future. Tom was lucky, but I kept thinking of the others who were enslaved with him, especially the one captive who was roughly his age, Adam. Adam's fate was only touched on once or twice, but you definitely felt sorry for him and knew that Tom could have easily been in his place.

My only complaint was that the book seemed to end a little too neatly--I won't spoil anything here, but let's just say that Tom arrives just in the nick of time more than once, which came across as a tad unbelievable.
Profile Image for Ernest Godfrey.
187 reviews1 follower
June 18, 2017

I read this book as an adventure pure and simple. I love the old sailing books though I freely confess I am not a sailor and do not fully understand the names or terms involved. This book however is different in a number of ways based as it is on fact. The sympathetic way it treats the teachings of Islam and the muslin Faith are enlightening and for me at least surprising. That said it is still a good story well told and well worth reading
390 reviews7 followers
February 15, 2017
Excellent Story

A lively and interesting plot that takes the reader from the Isle of Wight to Algiers, Malta, and back again. The author writes well, using good dialogue, word choices, and descriptions. I especially liked the nautical scenes. The descriptions of Algiers were very well-done. The main characters were very believable.
Profile Image for Chaplain Stanley Chapin.
1,874 reviews17 followers
November 1, 2017
Truly excellent

A extremely well written account of a young Englishman trials and tribulations. Great characterization, that was well researched and developed. The intrigue and intensity kept you turning the pages with anticipation.
7 reviews2 followers
September 10, 2018
Great Book

Excellent historical fiction based on the true story of Thomas Cheke. Loved the settings and characters. It was much more interesting than the usual slash and pillage because it adhered well to the true account.

1 review1 follower
April 6, 2017
I thoughly enjoyed reading Slave to Fortune. It was very well written and I loved the characters. Looking farward to reading more books by D.J. Munro
39 reviews1 follower
June 12, 2017
Excellent read

A fun, educational and entertaining book. I enjoyed all the characters to the point of reading all night to finish. Thanks to the author
465 reviews4 followers
July 4, 2017
One of the best books I've read

I gave this book a 5 star rating for I loved it. A book full of adventure, sword fights, mystery, and a pirate ship. Great story and well written.
2 reviews1 follower
August 13, 2017
I read hundreds of books a year, primarily historical fiction. This is at the top of my list - great story. Kept me awake longer than I wanted to be on several nights, and as best I can tell, historically accurate. As a Master Mariner, I was particularly pleased with the seafaring descriptions that were believable.
425 reviews1 follower
January 5, 2018

The author has written an extremely adventurous story using some facts of the day. The adventure and the characters makes it a true yarn. I loved the research and the authors using various religions for the understanding of different cultures. Very Enjoyable.
Profile Image for jason myrie.
6 reviews1 follower
August 28, 2017
A really enjoyable and considered story about a time I'm unfamiliar with. I hope there is another book in the offing.
3 reviews1 follower
April 19, 2019

History and adventure/ informative and objective. It is worth reading for the value of squashing religious prejudices. There is nothing that I found detrimental to the story. I thank the author for a good read.
5 reviews1 follower
March 5, 2017
Excellent book very enjoyable and I hope for more

Great read engaging and it put me in Venice Italy in the period like I was standing there. Great book!
2 reviews1 follower
February 3, 2018
Learn more about history of countries that we dont know.

Malta is something else, go visit & stay for at least a month, if you can spare more time do so my husband is totally wrapped in the HISTORY & Valletta . Venice your heart will stop, steep in history more then you think . Algiers I think I need to visit ... until now never knew much. After reading this book one should broaden their minds. Travel the world threw books is the way to also learn more about life & history.
1 review1 follower
December 21, 2017

I loved this book and would recommend it to anyone. Especially if they enjoy historical based book that read like a novel.
Profile Image for David Evans.
6 reviews1 follower
January 22, 2018

What a great story brought back many memories recognizing some of the names of the town's being from England I lived i
1 review1 follower
September 11, 2015
Slave to Fortune harks back to the 17th century when the seas around Europe were fraught with danger, including the threat of Barbary corsairs. At times it has the air of a swashbuckling adventure and at others, there is subtle development of relationships through the narrative of the young and affable Thomas Cheke.

The novel opens with the nighttime kidnapping of children from their homes on the Isle of Wight. We learn quickly of their predicament and are eager to see how their lives pan out. The plot is woven together cleverly and the full extent of injustice is revealed gradually with an exciting showdown.

A large appeal of the book is its historical and geopolitical relevance. It is an enlightening read, opening up the worlds of some of the busiest ports around Europe and beyond. From Algiers, to Malta, Venice and Portsmouth, we track the course of characters whose identities are firmly bound by their religious faith. Tom’s eyes, however, have been opened by the time spent in Algiers. The loss of his master is the loss of a companion. The fact that he had been a Christian slave in a Muslim household becomes lost through the mutually respectful relationship developed.

Tom’s time in Algiers is marked by both the desperation of his initial circumstances, being sold into slavery, and the opulence of his master’s assets. Through Tom’s use of initiative, his appealing character and graft, he manages to steer a steady course to a future of hope.

Currency conspiracy, a cipher and a corrupt cardinal all add spice to a superbly written narrative. As a secondary school teacher of English, I know this is a book many students will enjoy. It has a certain ‘boyish’ appeal but this does not limit its charm. There are aspects of the tale that are reminiscent of Robert Louis Stevenson’s Kidnapped, but I believe this narrative is more accessible to a wide variety of readers.

Profile Image for Barry.
1,079 reviews20 followers
February 5, 2017
Wonderful first person narrative of Tom Cheke during the 1600's. Kidnapped from his home on the Isle of Wright, slave in Algiers and then rescued by Edward Hamilton, a Knight of St. John. This is his story and a good un.
Profile Image for Donald.
454 reviews3 followers
February 16, 2018
Slavery & life!

Slaves of Islam were either well treated or used up quickly. This wonderful tale is well researched, characterization is excellent & the action fast as well as engaging. A very good read!
886 reviews3 followers
January 14, 2017
I really enjoyed this book. It was well written and based on actual events. If you enjoy good historical fiction (this one based on fact) then give this book a try.
May 24, 2022
I settled on three stars, though I would much more lean towards 3.5. I shall preface my short review by saying I am not one to read a great deal of historical novels and picked this up out of an interest in this time period and the issue of the Arabic slave trade in particular. As such, I am not too well versed in what can be expected from a historical novels.

I enjoyed the story as a whole. Munro succeeds in painting a very vibrant image of historic times, in such a way that I almost perceived the book like a travel guide to the early 17th century - one can picture places and processes very exactly thanks to the descriptions, and Munro often refers to events at the time that serve to make the book a great educational resource. It therefore sated my interest in the topic, but beyond this I personally didn't enjoy much more about the writing, characters and plot.

Plot shall be excused entirely as I understand Slave to Fortune is based on a memoir - so when I say the plot felt predictable, it means only that there was a clear set up and pay off with little to puzzle about or invest in. Where to me action and intrigue were lacking in making the story particularly exciting, I would have liked to get more invested in the characters. Perhaps again due to the biogrpahical style I found this difficult. I just didn't find the way the characters were written too engaging and cared very little for all of them. At times I felt that the book read a little like historical re-enactors at a theme park making sure their dialogue covers interesting historical facts, speaking as "NPCs" might in predictable ways that don't reveal a great deal of characterisation.
I also couldn't really bring myself to feel much for anyone despite the struggles lived through in the book - to me the writing simply wasn't very emotive or personal.

The writing itself was a little too simple for my tastes. Whilst Munro does write well, and clearly possesses an impressive vocabulary and a whole well of knowledge, the simplicity of the phrasing and its stop-and-go rhythm occasionally grated on me, and might be better suited to slightly younger readers.

So long story short: I didn't think Slave to Fortune featured amazing writing or characters but is a fantastic book to read if you want to know more about the time period, the culture and conflicts, the struggles of slavery and much more without turning to non-fiction.
Profile Image for Steven Toby.
169 reviews
April 24, 2018
Sprawling Tale

This book is such a page turner that I was planning to praise the taut and exciting plot but express skepticism about the authenticity. Then I got to the historical note at the end (good feature that appears in many historical novels since Patrick O’Brian used it in “Master and Commander”) and found out the author used a contemporary account and was therefore not responsible for the plot! Well, Shakespeare pirates almost all his plots and it doesn’t make us like his plays any less so it’s OK. I would have preferred a sentence in the afterword like, “This is based on manuscript 1629-xxxx that can be found in the Bodliean Library At Oxford” not only to make it clear where the plot and characters came from but also to allow scholarly readers to check on the details.

That same historical source might provide an explanation for the defect that prevents me from awarding it 5 stars. While the afterword shows the author researched the locations where the action took place in other sources, and the results have come through in the book in believable time and place details, the shipboard scenes are a grave disappointment, lacking the correct terminology and being unclear on numerous shiphandling evolutions. While the afterword provides a justification — the story is told first person by a landlubber — Darcy Lever wrote “The Young Sea Officer’s Sheet Anchor,” a 19th C seamanship manual, after just one major voyage as a passenger. Why didn’t our hero, Tom, at least figure out that sails were trimmed from the deck after spending so much time at sea?

I recommend this book with just the one reservation: naval history buffs will find errors in almost every sentence of the time aboard ship. Otherwise, the story is an amazingly engaging tale for something that happens over a 7 year period in locations as diverse as the Isle of Wight and Algiers. There is ample local color in each place that is believable even before reading the afterword.
Profile Image for Tucker.
Author 28 books186 followers
June 27, 2018
The endnote reveals that the characters were based on real people in history, and the historical setting was richly developed.

As a story, however, it didn't grab my attention. Despite being kidnapped and sold into slavery in a foreign land, the characters don't seem to feel any existential threat (material or philosophical), so, to me as a reader, nothing feels "at stake." The pacing was really slow. It begins with the kidnapping, it takes the whole first half of the book for the child to settle into the new slaveowner's house, and only in the second half do we begin to deal with that problem.

There is one reference to religious circumcision when a teenage English boy, captured some years ago, is asked if he "turned Turk." There are no references to castration.
Displaying 1 - 30 of 56 reviews

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