Marrin (Virginia's General, 1994, etc.) once again focuses on a complex, flamboyant figure as a way to introduce an extraordinary time of chaos and change. The author marshals facts, period documents, and current historical interpretations into a vivid book about a larger-than-life man who was knighted for his crimes of piracy. The Elizabethan era was characterized by intense loyalties and rivalries, religious conflict, and powerful economic change; the author weaves these and more into a well-organized narrative that crackles with near-novelistic flourishes and dramatic intensity. Part of the picture: the developing African slave trade, the Protestant Reformation and the Inquisition, the pressures of almost indescribable and overarching greed, the subjugation and looting of native peoples in the Americas, exciting sea battles, courageous navigation, and near-constant exploration. Though lacking labeled diagrams of the Spanish and British ships that are so well-described, the handsome book is bolstered by maps and well-captioned b&w period illustrations. Marrin presents Drake as a catalyst for and emblematic of this protean age. Hero or villain, Drake emerges as an unforgettable persona in a masterly work.