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Percival Keene (Book Thirteen of the Marryat Cycle)
Author: Frederick Marryat
Publication Date: 2010
In Percival Keene Marryat goes back to a character-style that he first introduced in Frank Mildmay. In both books, the "hero" is a bit of a low-life-proud, rebellious and, many times, downright mean. He was criticized for that style when Frank Mildmay first came out, so he stayed away from it for a dozen years; but, with Percival Keene, he reverted. Keene is the bastard son of an upwardly mobile captain in the Royal Navy. For social reasons, his father will not recognize him; but, instead, works behind the scenes to help him along. The book is full of the usual Marryat high-seas adventures in which the young officer is lost during a battle and thought dead, then finds his way back; confrontations with pirates, storms at sea, and so forth. But the fascination is with Keene himself. He is noble one moment, and mean-spirited the next. He shows unbelievable courage and integrity in one set of circumstances, but not in another. He is, to be sure, a low-life; but but he is an intriguing one. In many ways the book is a refreshing departure from the hero as a cross between Superman and Dudley Do-Right. Keene has flaws. So do we all. But couple that realism with Marryat's unquestioned ability to tell a sea yarn, and you have a very interesting read.