Despite its author’s professional background, the novel’s relationship to history is notably loose and irreverent ... This is a book that, for better or worse, consistently prioritizes excitement and action over probability or fact ... The dialogue’s relentless profanity feels plausible enough, but this plausibility is weakened by Jones’s unfortunate attempts to add comedy to the mix ... The novel is at its most interesting in these later chapters, when it begins to consider larger questions about warfare and national mythology and becomes as a consequence a little less concerned with action and entertainment and a little more self-aware. Such thoughtful passages remain, however, only occasional ... Whether readers find Jones’s freewheeling approach to the past refreshing or troubling will largely depend, I suspect, on their sense of what fiction in general, and historical fiction in particular, is capable of.
A thoroughly enjoyable achievement ... What makes Essex Dogs especially impressive is his focus on character ... it allows him to craft a remarkable story about the price of war and the way violence weighs on men’s souls while never losing sight of the sweeping, epic scale of his narrative. Rich in historical detail and told in tight, endearing prose, Essex Dogs is a historical fiction triumph.
An impeccably researched 'you are there' novel with a real-time approach, Jones' entertaining fiction debut ... moves episodically from encounter to life-threatening encounter. For all its violence, the book hums with black humor ... An enjoyable romp through the darkest of ages.