From the back cover:
His Majesty’s Ship Sutherland—of two decks and seventy-four guns—is a humdrum ship of the line. But in command is none other than the heroic Captain Horatio Hornblower and, with his crew from the Lydia, look set (sic) to take on commando raids, hurricanes at sea and the glowering menace of Napoleon’s onshore gun batteries—which Hornblower must deal with as he sails his ship to the Spanish station.
I absolutely loved both the beginning and ending of this book, the latter especially. I am going to have to check out the sequel far more quickly than I had planned. The middle section dragged a little bit, however, and I think it part of the problem was because during that section, Hornblower wasn’t able to command his ship in independent action. (He’s, like, the Jack Bauer of the Napoleonic War when left to his own devices.)
This volume was a lot more gruesome than the last, but I didn’t think it was excessive, just a very grim reality of war. There’s also more about the internal structure of command, now that Hornblower has to work in concert with some other ships. The introduction of Admiral Leighton adds an interesting dynamic, though I want to smack him soundly.
I must note that Hornblower, with his ability for mental calculation, could very easily tread into Mary Sue territory if not deftly written. Thankfully, it’s abundantly clear that he is thoroughly and genuinely miserable and self-conscious, and thus can be sympathetically regarded as a hero.