Set in the early 19th century amid the ships and seamen of a nascent United States Navy, Lieutenant Matty Graves is recovering from his ordeal during the slave rebellion in the French Caribbean colony of Saint-Domingue when he is ordered to Washington to answer questions about the death of his former captain. On home soil, he must deal with the mystery and shame surrounding his birth as well as the attractions of his best friend's sister. But when he is offered a command of his own, he seizes the opportunity to seek his fortune and make a name for himself—even if it means destroying those closest to him.
Nautical adventure fans will welcome Campbell's third novel to feature intrepid Matty Graves (after The War of Knives). In 1800, the 17-year-old Graves, "a bastard and a Negro" despite both parents being white, is recalled to Washington City, where his rank is reduced from acting lieutenant to midshipman, and he's questioned about his role in a duel between his friend Peter Wickett and another officer. Graves's fortunes later turn after he's promoted to lieutenant and given his first command, the schooner Tomahawk. On joining the American squadron in Santo Domingo, he's ordered to capture an American officer who's stolen a naval vessel and turned pirate Peter Wickett. Graves proves equally brave and resourceful at navigating the bureaucratic minefield of the U.S. navy and at steering a steady course through the treacherous politics of various nations Spain, France, England, Denmark vying for power in the Caribbean.