The opening of The Tide of War, set immediately after the conclusion of The Time of Terror, finds Nathan Peake recuperating at his father's estate in Sussex. After two years of serving "undercover" in Paris while posing as an American merchant captain, he is weary and grief-stricken. A summons to the Admiralty provides just the tonic he needs. Peake is made post and is to take command of a frigate, the Unicorn.
The Unicorn, alas, was last seen in Havana, where she reported that her captain was missing, as was her cutter with a full complement of sailors. Peake is thrown into the complex and turbulent world of the the Caribbean at the end of the 18th Century. England, France and Spain are vying for control of sugar and coffee production; slaves, inspired by the French revolution, are moved to revolt in Sainte Domingue and Cuba; the United States' citizens are pushing westward into Spanish territory; the French have designs on Louisiana; the Spanish, nominally allies with England, are divided between supporting the heretical English and the atheistic French; deserters, mutineers and runaway slaves are turning to piracy. And it's hurricane season.
Peake's mission is to destroy the French frigate Virginie (better armed and manned than the Unicorn), retrieve the Unicorn's cutter and protect Britain's interests. He is advised by the slippery and mysterious American, Gilbert Imlay, an actual historical personage. Imlay worked for each of the four nations, probably playing double or triple games, and no one knows where his true loyalties fell. His behavior often embarrasses Peake and sometimes endangers the mission.
Peake is beset by doubts and self-recrimination as he faces officers who question his decisions, and a sullen crew that has been flogged into submission by the previous captain. Nevertheless, he doesn't shy away from a fight and we find him battling pirates, the French, and mutineers at sea as well as in the bayous of Louisiana and on the south coast of Cuba. The action is well-narrated and compelling. Hunter keeps you turning the pages!
Seth Hunter's passion for history, especially the history of the various settings for the story, leaves the reader with a vivid sense of place and time, whether it be an estate on the Sussex coast, London, Havana or New Orleans. Hunter clearly takes delight in the details of history and shares his pleasure in a way that never crosses the line into pedantry. As in the first book, we are treated to cameo appearances by some of the celebrities of the time. I look forward to the third volume, The Price of Glory, due for release in July, 2010.
Description of: The Tide of War
Author: Seth Hunter