Passage by Angus Wardlaw – Book Review

Passage by Angus Wardlaw – Book Review

Passage by Angus Wardlaw


I received a free copy of this book.
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‘PASSAGE’ is the shocking account of the tragic John Franklin Expedition, brilliantly told in a new novel by Angus Wardlaw, descendant of Captain Francis Crozier who commanded the HMS Terror, sister ship to the HMS Erebus.

Wardlaw dramatically unveils the spine-tingling true story of this ambitious but ultimately fated expedition, that ended in death and cannibalism.

Meticulously researched, drawing on all that is known about the fate of this ambitious expedition, ‘PASSAGE’ relates the history, horror and extreme challenges to human fortitude faced by the crews of the two ships; familiar to many from ‘The Terror’ – the chilling Ridley Scott produced TV series. On 19th May 1845 the Royal Navy launches its most technologically advanced Arctic expedition ever in the hope of finding the fabled Northwest Passage: a direct trade route to the Far East that could bring untold wealth to the British Empire. But, just as the expedition is on the brink of astonishing success, nature cruelly threatens to crush the ships and stretch the crews of Erebus and Terror to the limits of human endurance.

With the temperature plummeting, the body count rising and little hope of rescue, their troubled leader has no option but to abandon ships with his freezing, sick and starving men and begin a brutal 500-mile death march across the High Arctic.

This is the true, epic story of the brotherhood and heroism of 129 souls who must pass through the very darkest of places in their struggle to survive as told by the great-great-great-great nephew of Francis Crozier, captain of HMS Terror.

Review by Clive

This was a book that I was reluctant to read because we tried to watch the Ridley Scott dramatization of Dan Simmons The Terror. Although we were interested in the venture we stopped watching after a few episodes because we found it slow, dull and so, so depressing. I was persuaded to give Angus Wardlaw’s book a chance and I’m delighted that I did. It is a tense and informative read.

Of course we will never fully know what happened on that trip but it seems to me that Wardlaw has thoroughly researched the known events. He gives full details of the crews, equipment and supplies. He has also included through the book, the instructions from the Admiralty to Sir John Franklin which I found particularly interesting. Yes, they hoped that he would find a passage from the Atlantic to the Pacific but they also expected full mapping of the route and the collection of a lot of scientific data, whilst following strict British Naval procedures that may be appropriate in the Channel on a nice summer’s day but not for the frozen north.

I know that the Dan Simmons version was published in 2007 but I don’t know whether Wardlaw had started his book before that. What I do know is that to produce a tough adventure story, Simmons did not need to introduce the monster and horror aspects to create a good novel because all the elements were already there: the battles against extreme weather, the boredom of being locked in the ice for months/years, the lack of food, the strengths and weaknesses of the sailors, the physical demands all taking officers and men to the limits and beyond.

The book ends with details of some of the searches for the missing ships and crews followed by a substantial Author’s Note by Wardlaw giving further relevant facts and opinions about the trip. All are personal for him as Captain Crozier’s great-great-great-great nephew.

Passage is currently available in hardback and paperback versions but as far as I can see it is not yet on sale as an e-book.

The world celebrates winners such as Columbus, Magellan, Amundsen and Hillary but easily forgets those that are unsuccessful. The captains and crews of Terror and Erebus were given a hopeless task, hampered by Naval Lords who failed to give them the right tools. In writing Passage Angus, Wardlaw gives rightful credit to those brave men. I have awarded four and a half stars.

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Angus Wardlaw


Angus Wardlaw comes from a naval family and as a descendant of Francis Crozier has long been fascinated by his naval forebear and the fate of the expedition. Following a career in the military where he specialised in intelligence and reconnaissance, Angus became an award-winning advertising creative director in London and New York. He is now an author and lives on a boat in London.

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