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First Fury (Volume 1) Paperback – September 26, 2013
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Ann Johnson was a woman scorned by a scoundrel who promised marriage, but left her ruined in a strange city when he took off. Hearing that he’d joined a whaling crew, Ann assumed a man’s identity and signed on herself, determined to find the ship that Caleb had joined and have her revenge against him. What Ann–now George– didn’t know was that whaling assignments are three years long and the work is brutal, even deadly.
One of the greatest things about the author’s writing in this story is his ability to flip back and forth between Ann and George as male and female pronouns. There was never a point where he accidentally referred to George as “he,” as in this story it’s important for readers to remember that George is a young woman. The seamless transition between her two identities was flawless.
Ann, a Rochester, N. Y. native, against her parents' wishes leaves home with a man she believes she will marry. Abandoned instead, alone, bitter and without resources, she finds employment working the mules that pull barges along the Erie Canal (a still functional waterway across New York State). Deciding to find the man, she goes to New York City, hears he has joined a whaling vessel, and signs on another, intending to find and kill him. The story describes her activity and experiences while living as a man in this brutally dangerous occupation.
Certain aspects of whaling activity during its height are presented - the hunting grounds from the Falklands around the Horn and into the Pacific are parsimoniously described, but the often almost physically and mentally intolerable work conditions are good. A little more detailed description of living quarters and associated factors would have been welcomed. The story itself moves well, but again, some character descriptions would benefit from a `fleshing-out'. Additionally, and because this is the story of a purported actual occurrence, Ann's ability to be accepted as a young boy for several months in the confines of a ship the size and structure of a sailing vessel of this period is extremely difficult for this reader to accept. Nevertheless, the author has managed to develop a character as a whole for which a degree of empathy is developed to provide a story many readers may well enjoy. Reviewed by John H. Manhold, award winning fiction/non-fiction author.