Review: A King’s Commander

A King’s Commander by Dewey Lambdin

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book is set against the backdrop of the larger Napoleonic Wars. The year is around 1797; a brilliant young general named Napoleon Bonaparte has just assumed command of the Army of Italy. It is considered an unimportant post and Bonaparte looks like he got his command due to politics, not ability. How the world was stunned when Napoleon takes this half trained, poorly supply army and turned them into a fighting force that shook northern Italy and the Austrian Empire’s southern flank.

The British has just “liberated” Corsica; this is where Nelson loses his eye. Even though he is in tactical command under Hotham, going ashore to fight is typical Nelsonian grandstanding. This is where Alan Lewrie enters the story. As commander of an 18-gun sloop, Lewrie’s much more shallow drafted ship can go in-shore to help with shore bombardment.

Lewrie is also caught in a Foreign Office spy plot like by Twigg to send false information to the French. There are Italian city states like Genoa with their own agendas and Alan is caught in the middle. His old enemy Choundas has reappeared and the two face off again.

With historical fiction, you cannot change the over-arching story; as I said, Napoleon’s stunning victories against the Austrians and the British means that Lewrie and Nelson cannot snatch victory from the jaws of defeat at the 11th hour. The French win on land and will keep on winning until 1807. In that year, they nearly lose a major battle against the Russians and in 1808 make the strategically disastrous mistake of invading Spain.

At sea, the British are the masters with the high point at Trafalgar. They don’t get any real challenge from the other European powers until the War of 1812 when the Royal Navy gets punched repeatedly by the upstart Americans. Will Lewrie have to fight that war? Who knows? Until then, Lewrie is in the Mediterranean for now.

I read this book for the first time in 2013 and didn’t remember much except Lewrie meeting Nelson and realizing Alan slept with Emma Hamilton (Nelson’s notorious lover) first.

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