“To Clear Away the Shadows,” by David Drake, Baen Books, 2019, 288 pages, $25.00

David Drake’s RCN (Royal Cinnabar Navy) series is a set in the far future. Faster-than-light space travel exists. Two major star-faring nations with holdings in multiple star systems, the Republic of Cinnabar and the Alliance of Free Stars, are contending for supremacy.

“To Clear Away the Shadows,” by David Drake, is the 14th novel in the series.

Cinnabar is based on a fusion of the societies of Republican Rome and nineteenth-century Great Britain. The RCN is closely modeled on the British Royal Navy during the period from 1700 to 1900. Influence and ability are both important.

The earlier books in the series featured Daniel Leary and Adele Mundy, Cinnabar aristocrats, in a pairing similar to that of Patrick O’Brian’s Aubrey/Maturin series. Both have become senior enough that when they appear the fates of multiple star systems change. Cinnabar and the Alliance (loosely modeled on Wilhelmine Germany and Soviet Russia) are in exhaustion. In this book Drake explores what can happen in times of peace.

Leary and Mundy are absent. Instead “To Clear Away the Shadows” follows the RCN cruiser Far Traveller on a peacetime survey. Its mission is an astrogation survey to find new routes in the back of the beyond, outer space at the fringes of Cinnabar’s influence. In addition to surveying space, the ship has a secondary mission to conduct biological survey at the planets it passes. It is analogous to surveying expeditions conducted by naval powers in the 19th century.

Our heroes are lieutenants Harry Harper and Rick Grenville. Harper, a well-connected aristocrat and was Trained as a scientist. An officer by courtesy, he is aboard as a biologist. Grenville from a humbler background, lacks influence. A fighting officer, he considers himself lucky for any posting during peacetime.

The two hit it off and become fast friends. This proves a good thing as the pair’s adventures (typical of those of junior officers, on-duty and off) require the complementary skills possessed by both for success.

“To Clear Away the Shadows” differs from the rest of the series, but offers another entertaining read.

Mark Lardas, an engineer, freelance writer, historian, and model-maker, lives in League City. His website is marklardas.com.

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