1886: Captain Nicholas Dawlish, commanding a flotilla of the Royal Navy’s latest warships, is at Trinidad when news arrives of a volcanic eruption on a West Indian island. The situation is worsening and only decisive action can avert massive loss of life. He races there with his ships to render help. His enemy will be an angry mountain, vast in its malevolent power, a challenge that no naval officer has faced before.
But Dawlish’s contest with the volcano is just the prelude to a longer association with the island. Its sovereignty is split – a British Crown Colony in the west, and in the east an independent republic established seven decades earlier by self-emancipated slaves. When wrenched from France through war, both seemed glittering economic prizes. Now they are impoverished backwaters where resentment seethes and old grudges fester.
For many, in Roscal the existence of a ‘black republic' on its doorstep is resented, an affront to be excised. In France, a man of limitless ambition, backed by powerful interests, sees the turmoil as an opportunity that could bring him to absolute power. And, if he succeeds, perhaps trigger war in Europe on a scale unseen since the fall of Napoleon.
Through this maelstrom Nicholas Dawlish must navigate a skilful course. Political concerns complicate challenges that can only be resolved by ruthless guile and calculated use of force. Lacking direct support from the Royal Navy, Dawlish must fight some of the most vicious battles of his career with inadequate resources and unlikely – and unreliable – allies.