From the back cover:
In this gripping tail of turmoil and triumph on the high seas, Horatio Hornblower emerges from his apprenticeship as midshipman to face new responsibilities thrust upon him by the fortunes of war between Napoleon and Spain. Enduring near-mutiny, bloody hand-to-hand combat with Spanish seamen, deck-splintering sea battles, and the violence and horror of life on the fighting ships of the Napoleonic Wars, the young lieutenant distinguishes himself in his first independent command. He also faces an adventure unique in his experience: Maria.
Lieutenant Hornblower is unique in that the tale is told from Bush’s perspective. I missed Hornblower’s brooding, insecure point of view, but it was interesting to see things from the stolid and loyal Bush’s perspective. I already had a healthy appreciation of Bush, but I sympathize with him more than ever after this volume.
The captain of the ship on which both men are serving is nutters, and eventually ends up being confined to quarters by his Lieutenants. To balance out this action in any subsequent inquiries, the men endeavour to distinguish themselves by going ahead with the mission. In this aim they storm and capture a Spanish fort, roust out some privateers, and repair an “unbushed” gun, all of which was exciting and interesting. Especially the gun bit, believe it or not.
Particularly great was the development of Bush and Hornblower’s relationship. Bush immediately sees Hornblower’s stoical mask for what it is, and his opinion of him continues to evolve from there. First he suspects he may be a coward, then he’s annoyed at Hornblower’s ready assumption of responsibility, then appreciative of his brilliance, then grateful for his solicitous attention once Bush has been wounded. By the end, Bush is honestly pleased for his friend when Hornblower is promoted from his subordinate to his superior.
This series has been great fun to read, and I couldn’t recommend it more highly. When next I read it, though, I think I’m going to go in internal chronological order, since the jumping around is getting a little tiresome.