Alexander Kent is now depicting the Royal Navy without a defined enemy and the impact this is having on it. Without a belligerent France across the Channel, the strength of the navy is slashed to the bone and beyond.
Adam Bolitho is still in command of the frigate Unrivalled only now is dealing with ships packed to overflowing with Africans en-route to slavery and with North African pirates. Neither of these opponents are giving much concern to politicians and merchant bankers of Great Britain, except in so far as they are accumulating wealth from the transport and auction of slaves. The man in the street knows little about this and cares less.
It is this apathy of the public that the Royal Navy in general and Adam in particular must battle. It might be easy to die for your country when the enemy is French or Spanish, but when it is a slave runner, the concept becomes a little vague. Fighting in the Bay of Biscay is one thing, fighting in the Bight of Benin is something else entirely.
Kent creates the atmosphere of these times with great care. You are faced with seamen, tossed onto the beach without thought, after being through tremendous hardship and danger. You are also faced with the families that they had left behind and now must support in some form or fashion. Also, there is the aristocracy, both of society and the Royal Navy that must be maintained. These features never go away. One would think that the needs of the Naval aristocracy would decrease as the Navy shrinks - far from it!
Adam Bolitho is a complex man and as I learn more about him, I can see this. From a bastard orphan to a successful naval officer, we have seem him evolve. Yet he is still dogged by his origins - he has never forgotten the days as a youngster fending for himself as his mother became unable to care and support him.
This is a book without the flash and thunder of a fleet action. Now it is a series of actions between schooners and sloops and oared launches. Adam's ship is too big and powerful to be of decisive value except as a resevoir from which to draw men to man the smaller ships. It is this type of action that is honing the skills of the men of Unrivalled and preparing them for the ultimate combat with African pirates.
Throughout the book, we are reintroduced to charecters of the past, Thomas Herrick, Daniel Yovel, Graeme Bethune and others. We see an appearance by Richard's daughter Elizabeth as she starts to connect to Adam for after all, in spite of birth situation, he is her closest surviving relative and vice versa.
This book is a continuation of the Bolitho family saga. It continues to add to what we know of the family, even if it is only in small details, such as the name of Adam's mother. I found it thoroughly enjoyable and a fine addition to my library. I would recommend it to anyone who has read even a few of the preceeding books on the Bolitho family.