Fire on the Waters: A Novel of the Civil War

Written by David Poyer

443 pages

Published by Simon and Schuster

Review by Molly Kinkade


David Poyer is a popular author of American sea fiction, and his new novel, Fire on the Waters, continues the tradition of engaging, well-written historical military sea fiction. Poyer’s writing helps to fill a gap in literature since every Civil War novel that I’m aware of focuses on the land battles. The sea battles are generally given little attention, if any. Here is a chance to see the Civil War fought out on the sea.

Fire on the Waters is the first book of Poyer’s new trilogy. Written in a conversational tone, it centers around Eli Eaker, a new naval officer who finds that he must make important decisions regarding his honor or his loyalty. As the Civil War begins the native New Yorker joins the navy despite his father’s protestations, and Eli finds that things are more difficult than they should be. Fire on the Waters is specifically about the U.S. Navy during the Civil War, but it is generally about the choices we must make throughout the course of our lives.

This novel is primarily recommended for fans of Civil War fiction, and especially for fans of naval fiction. But it is not necessary to be a fan of military fiction to enjoy Fire on the Waters. I do not have a particular interest in either one of those topics, but I found that Eli’s struggles with his overbearing father and his experiences with the naval crew were intriguing enough to capture my attention. I appreciated Poyer’s knowledge of the topics of which he writes, and he describes the actions of the naval crew, the battles, the plans of action, everything about the navy, in such finely pointed details that I felt myself there and saw the action happening in front of me. Anyone with some curiosity about the other battles in the Civil War, the naval battles, will enjoy reading Poyer’s work.


Molly Kinkade is a book reviewer and a student of history in all its forms. She lives with her family in the canyons of southern California.

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