Cape Colony is proving a tiresome assignment for Thomas Kydd's daring commander-in-chief Commodore Popham: South America's Spanish colonies are in a ferment of popular unrest. Rumors of a treasure hoard of Spanish silver spur him to assemble a makeshift invasion fleet and launch a bold attack on the capital of the Viceroyalty of the River Plate in Buenos Aires. Navigating the treacherous bars and mud flats of the river, the British invasion force wins a battle against improbable odds, taking the capital and the silver. But the uprising that promises the end of Spanish rule never arrives and the locals begin to see dark conspiracies behind the invader's actions. Now Kydd's men must face resistance and the betrayal of their closest allies. Can they save themselves and their prize?
Stockwin's 13th novel of Napoleonic naval warfare featuring the redoubtable Captain Thomas Kydd of the Royal Navy features more high-seas adventure, ocean battles, bloody melees, and general villainy. After capturing the Cape Colony in South Africa in last year's excellent Conquest, Kydd and his crew are anxious for action. It's 1806 and Kydd is the captain of the frigate HMS L'Aurore. When Commodore Popham decides to sail his small British squadron to South America to foment revolt against the Spanish, Kydd agrees to support the wild scheme without knowing that Popham plans to start a deadly war without the proper authority; the plan is ill-conceived, poorly supported, and doomed by treachery. Though the British capture Buenos Aires, the locals don't rise against the Spanish, as had been expected, and while Popham achieves his objective, Kydd and the crew are beset by massive enemy forces and surprising betrayals. Neither Kydd's imaginative determination, nor the courage of his men, seem likely to prevent disaster. Stockwin, who based this tale on a factual debacle easily overlooked by history, is a master of Napoleonic-era atmosphere and rich descriptions of the military, politics, and society. With the last two books, Stockwin's series is approaching the level of C.S. Forester's Hornblower books.