Review by Peter Dickerson
My Goodreads rating 5 stars
Goodreads blurb (their words not mine)
The Boy Who Led Them opens in modern times when a young victim of bullying discovers a two-hundred year old message from Jacob Swift, the king of smugglers, and gets caught up in an adventure that has the potential to solve all of his problems and a mystery several hundred years in the making.
Raised by a fisherman on the English Channel and taken under the wing of the fearsome Billy Bates, Jacob Swift was leading the country’s most successful smuggling gang at fifteen, landing cargoes of brandy, tobacco and silk along the Kent coast whilst fighting battles with rival gangs and Customs officers on land and sea.
But when the king of smugglers gets caught up in a plot to steal a priceless treasure he makes an enemy with enough power to bring his empire to its knees.
The Boy Who Led Them is a story of honour, loyalty and England’s troubled past. A story of treasure lost and finally found.
Peter Dickerson review (my words)
George Chittenden has created a story about smuggling and pirates, and how this relates to English society and economic issues from 200 years ago.
The elderly museum curator narrates the story to his young student. It is about courage and loyalty and a 200 year old mystery. It is a tale of adventure and misadventure.
The young hero Jacob Swift is successful because he has expert knowledge of the waters and channels in the area and of shipping movements. He is adopted by the king of smugglers and followed by his crew because he is charismatic, thinks quick, acts decisively and is tactically astute.
Jacob is loved and protected by the town because he looks after them and provides for them. He is a modern Robin Hood.
Unfortunately, the nature of being a smuggler is that there is always the potential for things to go wrong. There will always be competitors trying to move in on your territory, and the authorities will be keen to put a stop to your activities. Further, because smuggling is a criminal enterprise it has the usual associated consequences, dangers and risks. The life of a smuggler is similar to that of a pirate or a gangster.
Jacob has to make decisions about dealing with potential competitors and about evading capture by the authorities. The loyalty of his crew and the reputation of his mentor help him.
The story may also be a tragedy. It is the nature of being a smuggler, pirate or gangster that everything can fall apart. This can happen quickly and completely, in that all can be lost in a moment.
There is also a love story between Jacob and Elizabeth swan, which may also end in tragedy.
The author has had to balance the story. It is a Robin Hood style adventure. However Jacob also has to deal with tragic and brutal gangster style confrontations that are forced upon him.
A 200 year old mystery is solved through the reading of the story which provides the background for the telling of the story.
I enjoyed the book. It was fun and a good read. The dark elements are sadly part of the subject matter. Readers who enjoy English history and tales of adventure and smuggling will relate to the book and find it enjoyable.
Well done to George Chittenden who has also promised a sequel about the further adventures of Alfie and Jim, Jacob’s loyal bodyguards.