Tag Archives: royal navy
The naval action’s really quite good. Early in the book Bolitho’s in the Caribbean commanding a small squadron assigned an impossible mission, so we get to see the old, reckless Bolitho leading a cutting out expedition despite his high rank. And the book’s final battle sees Admiral Bolitho in the Mediterranean doing battle with a Spanish fleet; the results are pretty much a smaller version of Nelson’s Trafalgar battle. (This is one of Kent’s bloodiest battle accounts, by the way.) Bolitho survives, but his flagship–his old command Hyperion–is sunk as the battle concludes.
Admiral Bolitho leads a small squadron tasked with destroying the small craft the French are building to convey an invasion force across the Channel, shortly before the anticipated Treaty of Amiens brings a temporary peace. His captains include Thomas Herrick (a commodore in this book), Francis Inch, Oliver Browne-with-an-e, John Neale, and Valentine Keen. And old Phalarope–Bolito’s frigate in To Glory We Steer–joins the fleet on location, with Adam Pascoe as first lieutenant. Things go wrong, then they go right.
The alert reader will have recognized this plot is a small-scale version of Horatio Nelson’s 1798; indeed, Bolitho’s well aware of Nelson’s efforts, but circumstances–not to mention the frustration of an apparently-failed search effort–prevent the two from actually meeting. Francis Inch manages to ferry messages between the fleets, to his delight, but they’re inconsequential.
Except for the exotic location–the Malacca Strait–this is a perfectly typical novel in the Kent’s Richard Bolitho series. In fact, I’d happily recommend it on that basis: If you wanted to read exactly one Bolitho novel, Command a King’s Ship would be a fine choice. Romance, grand strategy, sea and land battles, and a bit of politics. Quite gory.
Kent’s Richard Bolitho is sort of an alternative Horatio Nelson. He has a very similar, largely concurrent, career in the Royal Navy, working his way from midshipman to admiral over the course of twenty-some novels, fighting in different theaters from Nel but with similar results. He’s a hero to the masses in London, inspiring to his friends and subordinates, and a bit of a loose cannon (less so than Nelson, but that is pretty much a given). Bolitho, like Nelson, has a scandalous relationship with a woman, which annoys his superiors and troubles his friends. Also like Nelson, he dies in a major battle just as victory becomes certain.
Schom’s story actually begins around 1801. Napoleon’s (eventually) failed attempt to invade England with a flotilla of relatively small craft is the main focus of the book, with a great deal of discussion of the the British government’s efforts to thwart the French invaders. Schom does this extremely well.
Pretty much entirely devoted to Nelson’s chase of Villenueve, with enough context to explain the importance of Trafalgar. Ends where all such novels end: In London, shortly after the great battle, with everyone not knowing how to handle the conflicting emotions generated by Nelson’s victory and Nelson’s death.
This book is really difficult to recommend. So is the entire Delancey series.
There’s more story here than the earlier LT reviewers seem to acknowledge. For maybe the fourth time in the series, Kydd takes stock of his life and decides to gain control of his destiny. This time the effort seems more convincing, though I confess it’s a bit rushed. He has a serious intellectual disagreement with Renzi; before they’ve mainly disagreed about social issues, with Renzi pretty much an unquestioned conscience on morality (except when he goes silly on us). The encounter with Robert Fulton is both entertaining and frustrating, and a fairly convincing portrait.
There are some absolutely delightful descriptions of life along the Cornish coast; especially interesting are contrasting views of the Polperro fishing village from the perspectives of Kydd and his man Toby Stirk.