A Fisher of Slaves

Fiction - Historical - Event/Era
384 Pages
Reviewed on 03/01/2023
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    Book Review

Reviewed by K.C. Finn for Readers' Favorite

A Fisher of Slaves is a work of fiction in the historical and interpersonal drama subgenres. It is best suited to the general adult reading audience owing to its gritty subject matter and was penned by author Dick Parsons. As the title suggests, this in-depth work looks at the slave-trading world of the eighteenth century and focuses on a mother and son who find themselves facing its many horrors. When Elizabeth allows her young son Nathaniel to follow in his father’s footsteps with a career at sea, the boy’s induction onto a slave-trading ship sparks a campaign that will see Elizabeth exploring slavery’s many horrors, and campaigning for abolition.

Author Dick Parsons homes in on a very interesting and relevant perspective with this unique novel, and it’s refreshing to see the learning curve of those who were less directly affected by the slave trade and to see how their mindsets were changing even in their own historical period. I enjoyed the close personal portrayal of Elizabeth and Nathaniel, a broken family with a son who needs a future, but a future that Elizabeth cannot accept despite their own struggles and needs. Parsons writes with engaging dialogue that balances itself well between sounding historically authentic and still being accessible to modern audiences, and the atmospheric description and historical details are clearly well-researched and serve to deliver a fully immersive reading experience. Overall, I would highly recommend A Fisher of Slaves to anyone with an interest in the abolitionist movement and historical fiction fans in general.

Alex Ndirangu

Dick Parsons' A Fisher of Slaves transports us to 1770s England, where we meet Elizabeth, a young widow, and her son. Her thirteen-year-old son, Nathaniel, has been all she has had since her husband died in the war against the French in the Battle of Quiberon Bay. Nathaniel's desire to spend his life sailing and traveling the oceans outweighs his other interests. However, Elizabeth worries that life's adversities on the open sea may rob her of her one and only child. She is also aware of the horrific slave trade and she would never want her son to be corrupted by it. But Elizabeth decides not to deprive her son of the opportunity to pursue his most cherished dream. She looks for Captain James Youle, the Mary Anne's captain, an excellent instructor of his apprentices. Captain Youle thinks Nathaniel is a bright young man and agrees to take him on. Elizabeth later discovers that the Mary Anne is a slave ship, and it is impossible to rescind their arrangement with Youle, meaning that her son's safety is now in the slaver captain's hands. But Elizabeth and Captain Youle's meeting was about more than just a mother entrusting her son to a man; feelings connected the two that neither could fully articulate. Given their opposing views on slavery, will their slow-burning romance blossom into something beautiful? Is there a chance that Captain Youle will stop being a slaver and become the man Elizabeth desires? What thrilling adventures will Nathaniel and Youle have at sea? Pick up a copy to find out.

The author uses simple, straightforward language. As a result, the dialogue was lively and realistic. Additionally, Dick Parsons used many sharp, vivid, and detailed descriptions that stimulated my senses and informed my mind's eye. I recall when Captain Youle and his crew attempted to regain control of the ship "Tamar" by shooting their muskets, and I could almost smell the smell of gunpowder. More commendably, the author's descriptions closely resembled those I've read in some historical books, which added to the authenticity of the narrative. I also liked how the author included beautifully drawn maps at the beginning to give a sense of scale. This feature also gave the characters landmarks without lengthy exposition from the author on details that were not crucial to the plot. A Fisher of Slaves is a lovely book full of unexpected turns that reveal a rare portrait of the ills of the slave trade and the dark motivations that drove it for centuries. I recommend it to fans of fantasy and history equally.

Keith Mbuya

It had always been young Nathaniel Lugger’s dream to sail the vast seas just like his late father and perhaps one day become a ship's captain. Elizabeth Lugger dreaded the thought of her only son going to sea. However, she knew she could do little about it. After being begged unrelentingly by her son, Elizabeth finds Nathaniel a ship and he signs on as an apprentice. It dawns on her that the ship her son was to serve in was a slave ship. Elizabeth is left distraught and frustrated when she can’t get her son off the ship due to contractual issues. She decides to wage war on slavery. Will she be able to fight the evil trade that had now sunk deep roots in England and all over Europe? What will happen to her son at sea? Find out more in A Fisher of Slaves by Dick Parsons.

Dick Parsons took me on a wild ride back in time to the eighteenth century in this engrossing read. He captures the mood and setting of the scenes through his vivid depictions. I loved the way he described the cultural differences of the diverse cast. This gave the story a strong touch of originality. He incorporates a subtle tone into the narration, keeping me on edge with adventure, action, and suspense. Parsons bases his storyline on a tale of agony, passion, love, discovery, fate, secrets, and much more. He incorporates an unusual depth of sentiment in the narration, making the reading experience an emotional rollercoaster. Some of the scenes brought me to tears and left me utterly heartbroken. Parsons develops the cast wonderfully, bringing out their characteristics boldly. He makes some as easily likable as he makes others loathsome. Elizabeth is an intelligent, brave, and outspoken woman. A Fisher of Slaves is a magnificent piece of work.

Emma Megan

A Fisher of Slaves by Dick Parsons is a riveting historical novel about slavery, racism, and love. It follows widow Elizabeth Lugger as she tries to help her son make his dream come true. Nathaniel is only thirteen and fascinated by the sea. Despite his mother's opposition, he sets his mind on becoming a ship’s apprentice and traveling the oceans. Elizabeth hates slavery and is determined to find a ship that isn't involved in the awful slave trade. She learns of Captain Youle and lets her son embark on his ship, only to discover later that the ship's sole purpose was to carry captive human beings over the ocean to a life of slavery in the New World. Will Elizabeth find a way to become part of the fight against slavery? Will Nathaniel become corrupted by the slave trade?

A Fisher of Slaves by Dick Parsons is an extraordinary work of adventure, romance, danger, and injustice handled with great skill and delicacy. It's a beautifully written story that offers great insight into sailing in the olden days. This absorbing historical work moves between the exploitation of people of color and the fight against that practice. It explores kindness, guilt, suffering, race, class, and the hypocrisy of church people. The book is both absorbing and profoundly empathetic. I particularly enjoyed the diversity of the characters' personalities and their development throughout the book. The ending was quite satisfying, and I highly recommended it to anyone looking for a gorgeously layered novel.

Carmen Tenorio

A Fisher of Slaves by Dick Parsons is a coming-of-age story about Nathaniel Lugger who finally got his mother's permission and joined the Mary Anne as a thirteen-year-old apprentice mate under the tutelage of Captain James Youle. His mother Elizabeth, though an ardent abolitionist, has unwittingly signed up her son on a slave ship. As the Mary Anne embarks for Africa, Nathaniel learns about all the important skills, techniques, and practices of seamanship with the help of a kindly chief mate and the captain. Youle treats the young apprentice as his own, and at the same time finds himself helplessly falling in love with Elizabeth, making him question his own beliefs and motivations. Nathaniel also witnesses all sorts of events like potential pirates, enemies, uprisings, stormy seas, and the loss of life, but most of all he sees the horrors of the slave trade. Back in England, Elizabeth becomes involved in anti-slavery causes. She befriends the Reverend David Hart, a priest whose family owns slaves. They both appear to be passionately opposed to slavery. Their attraction to one another leads to a love triangle with the captain and a cleric, both of whom yearn for the affection of the principled and attractive widow and mother.

Dick Parsons' A Fisher of Slaves is a compelling novel with likable characters, in-depth knowledge of ships, sailing, the ocean, and a shipman's existence. It is a thoroughly researched book with material that greatly broadens awareness of how the slave trade works. The third-person point of view of its characters draws the reader in and gives them a sense of involvement in the action and plot development. Though the term 'human rights' wasn't in use yet during the 18th and 19th centuries, this certainly is the hidden theme of the novel and the author did a good job of developing this convincingly using historically appropriate turn-of-the-century elements and scenarios. Not lacking in adventure and romance, the novel can potentially be good film material. Highly recommended for enthusiasts of well-written historical fiction filled with action, serious societal issues, and an endearing, old-fashioned style romance.