With solar sails hoisted and war with the Sectoids imminent, Imperial Navy Subcmdr. Liam Blackwood, enigmatic quartermaster Amelia Virtue, and the crew of the HMSS Daring must stop space pirates from disrupting human supply lines in the outer sectors in the first book in a new series.
Unable to catch the pirates outright, they pose as opportunistic space merchants to gather intelligence. Any booty they take from the pirates remains their prize, but sailing the system under a false flag comes with great risk: Fail, and the emperor will disavow all knowledge of the mission. Every member of the crew will be dishonorably discharged and made destitute. When Daring commander Sophia Riverton's orders jeopardize the mission, that threat becomes all too real, and the crew slips closer and closer toward mutiny. Romantic complications notwithstanding, Liam and Amelia have to uncover the truth about Riverton before the pirates discover their ruse and scuttle the mission, destroying any chance humankind has against the relentless Sectoids. While former Royal Canadian Naval officer Coles (March of War, 2017, etc.) brings nautical authenticity to this Napoleonic sailing era/space race mashup, he focuses more on the sailing and leaves the sci-fi to buzz away, sometimes forgotten, in the background. Nevertheless, the jaunty pace is unwavering and enjoyable. Coles' female characters could have used greater authenticity, but overall the colorful ensemble adds to the fun.
Traditional science fiction lovers may get distracted looking for more space tech, but lovers of classic high-seas adventures and those who enjoy genre-bending SF will find this swashbuckling space adventure a worthy read.