Friday, November 20, 2009

Stranger to Command by Sherwood Smith

Stranger to Command cover

Stranger to Command
by Sherwood Smith

Hardback: 480 pages
Publisher: Norilana Books
First Released: 2008

Author Website

Source: Bought through Books-A-Million

Back Cover Description:
In this much-anticipated prequel to Crown Duel, Vidanric Renselaeus, fifteen-year-old Marquis of Shevraeth, finds himself sent across the continent to a military academy in Marloven Hess, a kingdom known for its violent history.

Vidanric is used to civilized life in pleasant Remalna—except that the evidence is increasingly clear that the civilization is only on the surface. Too many young, smart heirs have suffered accidents of late, and the evidence is beginning to point to the king, Galdran, who has grandiose plans for expansion.

In Marloven Hess, no one can pronounce his real names, and they assume his title is his name. He becomes Shevraeth—discovering that there are no marquises or dukes or barons in this kingdom, and no one has the slightest interest in Remalna. Or in foreigners. Until very recently, the academy was closed to outsiders. But the king—also fifteen, and recently come to his throne after a nasty civil war—wants him there.

Learning about command turns out to be very different than Shevraeth had assumed, and the Marlovens, who are going through political and social change at all levels, are not at all what he expected. He makes friends as well as enemies; experiences terror and laughter as well as challenges on the field and off.

He discovers friendship, loyalty—and love.

All the while greater events in the world are moving inexorably toward conflagration, drawing the smartest of the young people into key positions—whether they want it or not. They’re going to have to be ready.

Stranger to Command is the prequel to Crown Duel and, in a way, a sequel to Senrid. You don't need to have read either of these books to understand and enjoy Stranger to Command though some of the references will (obviously) have more meaning if you've read these books. I'd actually recommend reading Crown Duel before Stranger to Command.

The world-building was excellent. The clash of unique cultures--Remalna manners against Marloven Hess customs--was fun. A few details made me raise an eyebrow, like Vidanric plunging his saber into the ground almost to the hilt to clean it (not the best way to clean blood from a blade even if he somehow physically managed the feat). However, things like this only happened few times and the questionable details weren't important to the story.

The characters were engaging and realistic--even Vidanric's enemies. I cared about what happened to them. The pacing and suspense were excellent, compelling me to read on to find out how the latest conflict or concern would be resolved. My one complaint is that we were only given a bare hint of what happened to Vidanric's Marloven Hess friends and charges after he returns home. He left them on the brink of war. I expect that's going to be another (not yet released) book, but I care enough about them that I want to know now. ;)

There was a romance and some kissing in the book, but no sex. Any bad language was done with made-up phrases. Overall, I'd highly recommend this well-written, clean novel to both teens and adults.

If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.

Excerpt from Chapter One
"You're a new one."

The 'new one'--a boy of fifteen--paused just inside the courtyard, mentally translating the words.

"Yes, I am," Vidanric Renselaeus said carefully in the language he'd been studying so hard since winter.

For a moment the Remalnan boy and Marloven man regarded one another. The Marloven had short fair hair, square cut in back, his clothing a fitted gray tunic over loose riding trousers that were tucked into high blackweave riding boots, belted at the waist with plain blackweave. Everyone Vidanric had seen so far in this enormous castle built of honey-colored stone appeared to be dressed in gray. They all wore blackweave riding boots, their hair--mostly variations of light colors--square-cut in back. They looked bewilderingly alike.

To the Marloven, on duty to sort out the academy boys, the newcomer was obviously a foreigner. He was weedy, as fifteen-year-olds typically are. Under his wide-brimmed riding hat his long pale hair was tied back with a ribbon. He was dressed in foreign clothes that looked well made but fussy to the Marloven eye: over a fine cambric shirt he wore a long split-tailed riding jacket of brown linen, trousers to match, lace edges at cuffs and neck. You heard about people wearing lace, but this was the first time he'd actually seen it.

1 comment:

Maria said...

Great Review! Sounds good!