Bolitho has two shocks on a voyage in the Tempest to a trading outpost in SE Asia and faces the bleakest prospect yet when he arrives, up against an angry pirate king with two frigates to his one. Bolitho has never been so close to utter defeat as here. In this plot Kent awards Bolitho a bit more luck than logic. It seems odd no one ever gets a tropical fever.
I like how Kent fills his stories not only with naval actions but little mysteries, or here "peacetime" intrigues and ambitions in the Far East. Kent has the ability to rapidly shift the reader's perspective from one character's thoughts to another's in a smooth and always clear manner. Most other naval authors focus on their hero alone, and everyone else is seen from outside.
I had two problems with this novel. I had trouble visualizing the ship maneuvres relative to land. Action proceeds and suddenly there's land or a channel where I didn't expect it, or on the opposite side from where I imagined it. Most disconcerting. It's possible I need to keep much more exact track of passing mentions of wind direction, tack, and course because Kent offers few other clues and does not describe them in laymen's (landsmen's) terms. It is vital to know, for instance, that starboard tack means sailing to the LEFT (with the WIND from the right), or "helm a lee" means turning into the wind. And of course there are no maps, there never are in Kent's stories. The one in Dean King's "A Sea of Words" (an O'Brian companion) is not quite right. Masts and lamps are frequently described as "spiralling" when surely "circling" to the motion of the ship is meant? Most seriously, for a subject that produces so much of the motivation in this story (and the next two), Kent never made me like Bolitho's great love, Viola. She starts out as just another arrogant aristo who makes eyes at our Richard, and it seems stupid he falls for her. Maybe that's part of the loneliness of command.