The first gun in a new Victorian boom-and-shake saga from veteran Reeman, a.k.a. Alexander Kent--featuring Captain Philip Blackwood of the Royal Marines. Blackwood's first duty here is leading his Marines on the sailing ship Audacious, flagship of vice-admiral Sir Ashley-Chute, with whom he'd once had a run-in while fighting Maoris. The squadron is on its way to West Africa to intercept and pursue slavers (both black and white). And also aboard is young Harry, Blackwood's jaunty stepbrother. The Audacious sets sail; tensions mount--with the Admiral a fearsome presence. In West Africa the landing party fights slavers blade-to-blade, with Blackwood's strategy and leadership winning the day. He also rescues lovely, distant Devern Seymour from the corpse-strewn mission of her doctor father. Then, seriously wounded, Blackwood is sent back to England to a dying father and maddening young stepma Marguerite, who barely keeps passion in check; and he now learns that Devern is married--leading to a poignant meeting/farewell. More action follows: in Malta with the Crimea in the offing; in the Black Sea with a majestic sea battle; and Blackwood is struck down as he waves his sword to charge yet again. All the weather-worthy staples are here: the unsung hero, loyal to the Corps, who bucks both the enemy and commanders greedy for glory; doggedly devoted ranks; a lady in distress; fire-power galore; And fans of the military-period saga will continue to find Reeman a reliable, if uninspired, producer.