The author of several well-received novels about the Civil War joins forces with her brother, who has wide military experience, to devise an exciting adventure based on the legendary battle of the first ironclad ships. After he shows his seamanship as hero of a night raid to break the Union blockade of Norfolk, Eben, 13, is recruited to serve as a powder carrier aboard the Confederacy's Merrimack. On board the ironclad, he defeats a spy's attempt to destroy it and fights in its two engagements, including the seminal battle with the Monitor. After the Merrimack, fatally crippled, is blown up by its own men, Eben follows Wade Hampton's company until he is captured--whereupon a twist of fate enables him to find a future at sea while preserving his Confederate loyalties. Beatty and Robbins offer involving action and vivid background description, though characterization often seems an afterthought here. A concluding note discusses the events' significance. This is historical fiction that truly brings its setting to life.