This is by far the longest book in Kent's Bolitho series. Unlike most books earlier in the series Bolitho spends considerable time on shore iintimately nvolved with his illicit love, Catherine, and then when he is at sea again passionately longing for her. The brave stories of a scared little midshipman who eventually finds his courage, or the lieutenant who excels despite having lost half his face are nearly lost behind Bolitho's obsessive anxieties over his separation from the bold Catherine. Bolitho, now half blinded, is showing signs of tiring and retiring. The series has become a study in the accumulated effects of endless time at sea and in fighting sharp and desperate actions. Bolitho, always deeply concerned with his men, has progressively lost the closest colleagues on whom he had depended, "we happy few," an' that's no error. Still there are flashes of the old outer heroics while fighting the Dutch for Cape Town, on a secret mission to Copenhagen, and coming to the rescue of his troubled friend Herrick at sea.