A Far Distant Land (Australian Historical Saga #1), by David Field

Eight stars


A great fan of David Field and his writing, I was eager to hear that he had started a new project, this time focussing on the historical beginnings of British presence in Australia. While I have read a little on the subject (a favourite author of mine penned a major trilogy), I was interested to see what Field had to say on the matter, looking to this, the first in the tetralogy. When Second Lieutenant Daniel Bradbury arrives in New South Wales, he is unsure what to expect. With a boatload of convicts, he can only hope that setting up a community will run smoothly. After numerous encounters with one of the female convicts, Martha Mallett, they fall in love and begin setting up roots. As the years pass, the colony grows, as do the responsibilities of Lieutenant Bradbury. What follows is the start of the saga that will include many others, as Australia begins to grow as a British colony. Field does it again with his writing, keeping me hooked until the final page.

Second Lieutenant Daniel Bradbury has high hopes as he sets sail with a boatload of convicts, on their way to the penal colony on the other side of the world. With plans to set up camp in New South Wales, Bradbury prepares for what would surely be a rough few years, but could not have predicted that he would cross paths with the feisty Martha Mallett. A female convict and fabulous actress, Mallett finds a way into Bradbury’s thoughts, which eventually leads to a spot in his heart and bed. As scandalous as it might have been, both knew that they were destined to be together.

In the years that follow, both Bradbury and Mallett make their mark on the colony and those around them. Bradbury finds himself able to connect well with the indigenous community, forging a loose form of communication to ensure peace. Mallett, while not yet free of the convict moniker, has been able to earn a special respect of the other soldiers and members of the British delegation. Still, she hopes for more, considering herself a petty criminal, only guilty of trying to stay alive.

With time, Martha is removed from her role as criminal and granted a place with Bradbury in the upper crust of colonial society. Bearing a few children for her husband, Martha is able to make an impact, but wants more. As Lieutenant Bradbury rises through the ranks and the years pass, he becomes a prominent member of the colonial hierarchy and has hopes that his family will continue to influence the settlements that expand across the still barren land. However, much has yet to be decided and the Bradbury name is being bandied about for higher causes. David Field impacts the reader effectively and keeps the reader wondering what is to come.

I have always found David Field is one author whose interest in a topic resonates from every word he puts to paper. Not only that, but his varied interests have proven effective in a number of well-developed series, quick reads all of them. This series debut is stunning in its depiction of the era, the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, and how the British sought to make their mark on a territory so far away. The characters are highly intriguing and will surely continue to flavour the narrative, as the series moves forward with three other books to come.

While there are many who mark their mark within this short novel, Daniel Bradbury and Martha Mallett are key protagonists throughout. Their backstories are developed briefly, but it would appear Field is more interested in laying the groundwork for character development and future roots that will impact the series as a whole. From vastly different ranks, Bradbury and Mallett find ways to connect, while also influencing the lives of those around them. I am eager to see how they, and their family, will make a difference as the series moves forward.

Since discovering the work of David Field, I have always had an affinity for his writing. Be it Victorian crime novels, Tudor scandals, or even an Australian epic saga, he never fails to deliver. While much more compact in his writing, Field reminds me of one of my favourite authors who (as I mentioned above) also penned a multi-volume series about the settlement of Australia. High compliments for that, as the narrative flows just as well, with wonderful characters to keep the reader entertained. Short chapters help push the story along and forces the reader to feel a part of the action. Interesting plot twists, both woven into the actual history of events and fictional occurrences, make the reader’s journey all the more delightful. I am eager to get my hands on the second novel in the series to see if it packs as much punch.

Kudos, Mr. Field, for another winner. I cannot say enough about this debut or all of your writing. I hope your fan base grows as people discover what a delight reading those books can be!