Stand into Danger is the fourth book is the series focusing on Richard Bolitho, a young officer in the Royal Navy. This series which first started publishing in the early 1970’s is considered by many to be amongst the finest works of British Naval Historical Fiction. The series follows the trials, victories and career of young Richard Bolitho. I consider this volume to be the fourth in the series although it was not the fourth written by the author. Although it was not the fourth written by Alexander Kent, it is fourth based on the internal chronology. The series was originally written with intervening book looking back to a period in time. As the books follow strict timelines, you can enjoy them by reading the stories as the character experienced them.
Richard finds himself aboard a new and much larger ship, Destiny. Having recently completed his officer’s exam, he finds himself in the unfamiliar position as third Third Lieutenant aboard the ship. He is quite young for the position and is looking to build credibility. As soon as full crew is obtained, the ship sets said for South America and a purpose that is unknown to the crew. It is quickly revealed that the trip is searching for a treasure lost and to settle old scores. There are some battles at sea, some battles on land, some politics and some subterfuge. In the midst of this there are some serious injuries and forbidden love.
An Oldie but a Goodie
There is good reason for this to be considered a classic series in the genre. The setting is well crafted and very detailed. While I couldn’t point aft, find the poop deck or explain a jib boom, the nautical detail is both extensive and intriguing. It serves to provide a feeling of authenticity.
The Character of Richard Bolitho is likeable and well developed. The reader is following along with his career and we are learning of his failings, success, pain and achievements. Many of these historical military novels use well tread plot points. A fleeting love interest, a unduly cruel and/or incompetent leader, a poorly treated and/or misunderstood protagonist who is put in an unfortunate position. While some of these appear in this volume (fleeting love interest) much of the standard fare is not present.
The series is tailored to attract a wide audience. Adults and young adult readers alike can enjoy the action and adventures of Richard Bolitho. The content is not, in my opinion, objectionable for most readers. (At least in the first four books) While some readers may struggle with the specific detail, the themes and story are easy to grasp.
This Picture needs a Thousand Words
While the detail and characters are well drawn, the story progression drags the book down. It is as if the story is told in snapshots. We follow the story arc by viewing distinct moments in time without seeing what came between the pictures. I found the story to be rather chaotic in its presentation. As a result, the relatively slim volume took me much longer to complete than in should have. Many times throughout the story I had to stop and ask myself what exactly it was that was happening. In fact, by the end of the book, I wasn’t sure if they had accomplished what they had set out to do. This is a major failing for any book and dragged the rating down significantly.
Regardless of the method of storytelling, the themes of love, duty and loyalty shine through in this coming of age story. Regardless of the age of the reader, you will be able to identify with being in a new position and feeling unprepared for what is ahead.
While I was on the fence about this volume, I will certainly read on at some point. Unlike more recent novels, this story has a sense of innocence and is suitable for many ages. Had I been aware of this series in my early teens, I imagine I would have quickly devoured each and every book in the series. Despite it’s shortcomings, the series is entertaining and exciting and certainly worth a look.
It is difficult to find commentary on the sex/violence/language content of book if you are interested. I make an effort to give you the information so you can make an informed decision before reading. *Disclaimer* I do not take note or count the occurrences of adult language as I read. I am simply giving approximations.
Scale 1 – Lowest 5 – Highest
Sex – 2.5
There is some kissing and mildly lustful thoughts. Once character has feelings for a married woman and the feelings are returned. There is a singular episode where sex is implied.
Language – 2
There are a few minor obscenities. I believe it would be acceptable for early teens and up.
Violence – 3
There are multiple battles and a significant number of people are killed. The scenes are mildly graphic. There is a threatened hanging and some fist fights. While violence is one of the themes, the violence is mild by more modern standards. I believe it appropriate for a Young Adult reader.