The cover of H. Paul Honsinger’s first book promises grand old-fashioned military SF. And he delivers on this.

The general setup is familiar: officer with his first command of a warship gets a ship with a troubled, low-morale, crew and has to turn it around to do great things with it. Also, the ship’s doctor is the secondary character in a parallel with the Aubrey–Maturin series.

There are some problems. There’s some decent explanations for certain things, like why ships don’t self-destruct in the face of boarding. But ships have a ‘top speed’, and there’s a couple cases where acceleration and speed seem a bit confused (though it’s still much better than some popular franchises…). Considering that the main ships decidedly don’t have reactionless drives, they’re going up to high percentages of c awfully easily. The series follows its Age of Sail antecedents in a way that feels natural, but when you think about it, there’s some problems: There’s no sign of computer expert systems or other modern computer technologies, much less any sort of remote-operated or computer-controlled drone/secondary vehicles.  Having 8 to 10-year-old boys on board as part of early training is handled well in the novel, but I still wonder what’s happened to child labor laws in the next three centuries.

On the other hand, the writing is very good, and provides for the characters to contemplate larger questions and show some humor in turns. It kind of ticks through several minor tropes in turn, which lends some predictability, but they’re well handled. Best of all, the military elements feel right, with a great combination of hierarchy, tradition, and pragmatism.

It’s kind of “80s” military SF, done well, and despite the quibbles is a really fun read; I poured through this faster than most anything else I’ve read lately. It’s a good action-adventure story, and as such succeeds very well.