The Brotherhood of Pandora by David L. Nichols – Book Review

The Brotherhood of Pandora by David L. Nichols – Book Review

The Brotherhood of Pandora by David L. Nichols

The Brotherhood of Pandora

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To combat Napoleon’s increasing interest in the Caribbean and help pressure France to sell New Orleans to America, Vice-President Thomas Jefferson enlists the aid of friend and naval hero Captain Jacob May. He asks Captain May to wage a clandestine war against the French in the Caribbean not as part of the US Navy, but as pirates.

To accomplish this, Captain May uses the cutting-edge technology of 1799: Girardoni air rifles, Fultons self-propelled torpedoes, a submarine, cannons with rifling, and Pandora, a specially modified ship. Captain May molds his crew into the Brotherhood of Pandora and gives Jefferson chaos in the Caribbean.

Review by Clive

David L Nichols is an expert on wooden boats having built them, taught others to build them and has written three books and many magazine articles about them. He also has passion and skills for writing fiction which he has been sharing in serial form through Moontower Press. As far as I can tell The Brotherhood of Pandora is his first published novel and very entertaining it is.

The story starts intriguingly as we meet Marine Lieutenant John Garvey who is sailing along the American coast to deliver a top secret message to the US naval veteran, Captain Jacob May. Garvey has never met Captain May and as he travels he recalls stories of the Captain’s career as told to him by his father who served under May. It was vital that we should know May’s backstory but I found these first few pages frustrating. I wanted to get into Garvey’s story and because his recollections were second hand I found them rather sterile. If you feel the same, please be patient because once he meets May, the true story kicks in and you will be hooked.

To carry out his commission, May has to obtain and refit a ship which gives Nichols an opportunity to introduce a wide range of merchants, engineers and armorers to equip the Pandora for this unusual mission. The detail of this work was fascinating. Needless to say, the crew of sailors and marines needed to be chosen carefully and again Nichols finds a number of interesting characters.

Once the mission starts the action becomes fast-paced as we travel round the Caribbean creating havoc by capturing, plundering and destroying English, Spanish and French shipping; naughty stuff but tremendous fun.

Occasionally, the storylines reflect modern thinking rather than the reality of the time. As wonderful as it sounds to kill plantation owners and free their slaves, I was left wondering what would then happen to those slaves. Could they stay on that land? Could they get work? Wouldn’t the neighbouring plantation owners feel threatened?

The book ends with the crews sailing towards home knowing they are all entitled to a small fortune but with the risk that they are treated as pirates by the US authorities. More importantly for us is whether Captain May and his crew get to sail again. I for one sincerely hope that they do as I would love to read more adventures like this.

Despite my small grumbles I found The Brotherhood of Pandora an excellent read and still worth five stars.

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David Nichols

David L Nichols

In addition to The Brotherhood of Pandora, David Nichols has published three books and a number of articles on building small wooden boats and traditional sails. He also taught wooden boat building at WoodenBoat School and Great Lakes Boatbuilding School. In addition, he wrote and directed an hour-long “how-to” video on wooden boat building and has written many scripts for industrial and commercial films.

This background allows him to accurately portray the boats and ships of the late 18th century and weave a cohesive and compelling story. Other fiction he has written can be found at He has a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Texas, Austin.

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