At Drake’s Command

Written by David Wesley Hill
Review by Steve Donoghue

This first installment in Hill’s adventures of young Peregrine James, set during the height of Elizabethan ‘sea-dog’ days, has a shape that will be instantly familiar to any fans of age-of-sail seafaring fiction: James, falsely accused of a crime, opts to cast his lot with Sir Francis Drake, becoming a galley boy and wry narrator of Drake’s mystery-shrouded, action-filled second navigation of the world.

There is a lack of originality in Hill’s premise, but this is more than offset by the sheer energy, humor, and historical atmospherics of his narrative. We follow Peregrine James into one peril after another (some of them quite amusingly culinary in nature), always rooting for him, and along the way Hill crafts a truly memorable portrait of Drake himself, who could easily have been a simple authority-figure foil but is instead very nearly the star of the show.

Readers of nautical fiction shouldn’t miss this book.