1812. Arriving back in England after his successes in the Adriatic, Captain Sir Thomas Kydd is bestowed with honours. In London he's greeted by the Prince Regent who, despite Kydd's protestations that he's happy with his present command, insists he be given a bigger ship - HMS Thunderer, a 74-gun ship of the line. But she's old, and being part of a standing fleet Kydd's chances of further fame and distinction are slim indeed.
Winning over his new command is fraught with challenges. A hostile crew, abysmal levels of gunnery and sail-handling capabilities are intolerable to a fighting captain like Kydd. With the ship short of men and no incentives to attract more, can he ever bring Thunderer to a proper state of fighting preparedness?
Kydd is sent to reinforce the Baltic squadron as Bonaparte's vast army invades Russia. News reaches him of French victory at the Battle of Borodino. The road to Moscow is now open. To avert total French victory, Kydd must lead a vital convoy through battle and tempest to the aid of Britain's last ally.