Alexander Kent,
Command a King's Ship
(Hutchinson, 1973; McBooks, 1998)

Britain has no major naval wars ongoing when Command a King's Ship begins. It's 1784, the American Revolution is over, there are uneasy truces with France and Spain, and Richard Bolitho is home in England after a cruise in the West Indes.

He gets a new ship, as he hoped. But the frigate Undine is setting a course for distant Indonesia, helping to solidify British claims to a territory considered vitally important to the expansion of English trade.

But there are plots afoot to foil the plan, as is evidenced fairly quickly when the great Spanish ship Nervion accompanying them on the mission is lured onto a reef and destroyed by slavers. Bolitho, never one to back away from heavy odds, decides to continue the mission alone.

But native populations don't always care much for the machinations of Europe's great powers, and a powerful pirate has set up his own claim to the pivotal region. Supported in his efforts by an experienced French captain, he proves an intractable foe -- and Bolitho has his own troubles to deal with in the person of the British ambassador's wife, Viola, who leads him astray and, I suspect, will continue to play a role in future books in this series.

Alexander Kent continues to satisfy with this series. There are characters both new and familiar here and, while a few are a little too flatly described, most are developed into flesh-and-blood figures who come to life on Bolitho's sea. The action is fierce and keenly plotted, and the final assault will have you gripping the pages tightly in anticipation of the bloody conclusion.

I love this series, and I'm thrilled that so many volumes still remain.

book review by
Tom Knapp

10 November 2012

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