Second installment in a series about a Hornblower-esque teen wizard’s ascendance up the naval hierarchy.
The opening finds Halcyon Blithe, recently pardoned and promoted after being court-martialed (Midshipwizard Halcyon Blithe, 2005), fighting a sea battle against the Arcanians’ archenemies, the Maleen. In this first of several battles comprising the episodic plot, Ward reintroduces Blithe’s central-fantasy-casting crewmates. Halcyon displays impressive skills but an equally remarkable knack for getting into trouble. On trial again after his half-demon side emerges in a scuffle with a demon ship, he’s sentenced to . . . another promotion. Blithe and key members of his crew, including chief rival Elan Swordson, take a new post on the dragonship Rage, conducting an elfish ambassador to the Dwarven Empire.
Not as fully realized as Naomi Novik’s recent nautical fantasies featuring dragons (Black Powder War, etc., not reviewed), this series will best suit a younger audience, but it could charm anyone looking for an undemanding tale of magic.