3 out of 4 stars
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Written in the form of an autobiography or memoir, I, Walter by Mike Hartner is a story of an unlikely hero and philanthropist born in England in the late 1500’s. Walter narrates as though he were writing his life story when he is near death. His story begins when he runs from home around age 12 in search of a better life than his father would provide. After scraping an existence as best as he can, Walter meets with a man named Bert who convinces Walter to join the royal navy as a crew member. Fortunately for Walter, Bert is an honorable man who becomes Walter’s mentor and friend.
Honesty, a sense of fair play, and generosity rule Walter’s daily decisions as well as choices he makes when under significant pressure—such as fighting off a crew of pirates or defending the honor of girl captured by pirates. When Walter meets the love of his life, he wants nothing more than to prove himself worthy of asking her hand in marriage and sets out to search for ways to become wealthy. It is nearly impossible in this time period for someone of low birth to raise in position. Will the gods favor Walter in his quest? As a sailor in the royal navy, Walter faces a multitude of perilous situations. Pirates, nobility, danger, and mystery are all key players in Walter’s life.
When I review a book, I specifically look at the overall storyline, the pacing, and character development. Overall, I, Walter is a very easy read and has an adequate plot. The exciting action-filled pace and harrowing near-death experiences easily kept my attention. Regarding character development, Walter is generally a likable fellow, although he goes through life generally unaware of how he is perceived by others. Most of the other characters are somewhat flat, but the dialogue is overall solid and interesting. I also really like the fact that the romance is sweet and clean.
My biggest complaint is that I am not convinced that the author thoroughly researched history before writing. The time period felt more like a general setting than an integral part of the story. Mentions of actual historical people are rare and often vague. Even the king of England was referred to as “the King” throughout, although King James VI would have been the king of England. The author also introduces significant confusion about the king of Spain at the time. For these reasons, I take any history provided with a grain of salt. Some of the spelling was unusual to me, such as “sayling” instead of “sailing.” I guessed this was an attempt to provide some authenticity to the historical setting.
Overall, I rate this 3 out of 4 stars. I found the storyline to be unique and refreshing, but would not consider this to be solid historical fiction, even though set in the 1500’s. If the characters were better developed, I might be tempted to give this a solid 4, despite the lack of any solid historical authenticity.
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