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on 26 March 2010
This Hornblower novel had a remarkably different feel to it, when compared to the preceding novels which we are familiar with and have come to love.

Hornblower is now a Commodore, in charge of a squadron of ships which takes the fight to the French in the Baltic. Hornblower still possesses many of his characteristic mannerisms and personality traits, but he appears to be loosening up a little towards his younger, dynamic officers. His filial and paternal love appears to be stronger than ever and his love for Lady Barbara is in stark contrast to his previous relationship and feelings for Maria.

I suppose it is because I am used to seeing Hornblower on one ship in the Atlantic, that this book felt so different. However, once I had readjusted and familiarised myself with the refreshed format; I soon realised that I had a very good book in my hands, which certainly complemented the Hornblower saga.

This book contains a substantial element of localised politics/history which Forrester slipped into his prose between the action scenes. I found that this background information was fascinating and certainly helped me to understand the complexities of the local alliances and enmities between the Baltic States. I believe that this gave the book an added sense of realism which in turn allowed me to devour the book as it held my interest.

So all in all, another excellent Hornblower novel!

It feels different at first, but you will certainly enjoy it once you have readjusted.
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on 17 June 2016
These Hornblower Books are all very good for loosing one selve, out of all the C S Forester books this series always leads you to the next in t he series
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on 27 April 2017
The book arrived in pretty good shape. It is perfect and my husband likes it very much. He says it's the best of the series.
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"But whatever the cause, mutiny must be suppressed instantly, visited with extreme punishment. Smallpox or the plague were no more infectious and no more fatal than mutiny in a fighting service."

Despite appearing as the ninth in order of Hornblower's naval career, this was the fifth in the ten (plus one) series to be written. And this time, it's 1813 and Napoleon's empire is starting to crumble. It was written just after the end of the Second World War, at a time when Forester would know first hand how chaos can take hold of a nation on the losing side.

The book is as well-written as usual but with some nice added touches. For instance, there is a nice metaphor when the author writes, "Every timber resonated the shrieking of the rigging; to be inside the cabin was to be like a mouse inside a violin while it was being played [and] ... as if someone else were tapping the body of the violin at the same time with small mallets."

But, equally as usual, there are some problems. For me, there's something not quite right about the opening: should not the knights of the Most Honourable Order of the Bath be meeting at Windsor rather than Westminster? And if the former, is there fan vaulting above the choir stalls? And later in the book, Forester puts the word `socialists' into the mouth of the French royal duke: surely this is anachronistic?

There is also something remiss about the proposed plan to cunningly deal with the mutiny off the French coast. The French should know by now that there are two British ships anchored offshore and would know which one was coming into port. (Would they not have had lookouts on the shore?) In addition, would not the mutineers have kept a hawk's eye on Hornblower's ship and warned the port of what was happening, for example by firing a shot? The French might be ruled by Napoleon, but they are not stupid!

And we now see Hornblower, the cold-blooded killer, when he shoots the mutineer Sweet in the back. But his natural humanity is well to the fore too: "To him it was such an obvious thing to do to look after Brown that it did not cross his mind that it might be admirable as well."

Despite these problems, the more I read this book, the more I enjoyed it. Like the times in which it is set, it has an unpredictable character. The book begins with a mutiny off the French coast, but there is no indication where the story will eventually take us. Forester is good at setting up a problem and seeing how Hornblower will solve it, seemingly having dared the reader to come up with his own solution beforehand. And the tension is held to the very last page as to whether Hornblower will survive.

My one regret with this book is that his wife is off attending the Congress of Vienna. It would have been nice to have seen Hornblower there too, but I guess he was too busy dealing with the repercussions of the collapse of authority in northern France.
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Most Hornblower fans will either be strongly attracted to Commodore Hornblower . . . or strongly repelled by it.
In the beginning, this book's mood shifts greatly from the earlier books now that Hornblower is rich and famous, and happily married to Lady Barbara. His glittering brothers-in-law are off winning critical battles, and Hornblower feels like he needs to keep winning some semblance of renown in order to retain Lady Barbara's respect. The book starts off slowly, therefore, in setting the stage for Captain Sir Horatio Hornblower's elevated status in society and in the fleet.
As a commodore, Hornblower has a small squadron under his command, including one ship of the line, the Nonsuch (seventy four guns), commanded by Captain Bush. Hornblower's orders give him the "widest latitude of discretion to enter the Baltic Sea and create problems for Bonaparte, who is threatening both Sweden and Russia in the spring of 1812. Secretly, his brother-in-law, foreign secretary Marquis Wellesley, warns Hornblower that he should be prepared to assist the Czar in leaving St. Petersburg should Napoleon invade and overrun Russia. Within the Baltic, the Russians have 14 ships of the line, and the Swedes almost as many.
Nearing the Baltic, Hornblower knows that the Danes are hostile, having been conquered by the French. So he steers away from their batteries nearing the Baltic. But are the Swedes still neutral? There's only one way to find out. Run under their batteries and see if they fire?
Political events rapidly develop, aided by Hornblower's diplomacy and deceptions. By winter, the Grande Armee has invaded Russia, reached Moscow, and been shattered by the Russian weather. Hornblower, in the meantime, is attempting to thwart an attack through Latvia aimed at capturing the Russian capital of St. Petersburg. The action, once it begins, will remind you somewhat of the best parts of Ship of the Line.
For those who wish to follow the armed conflicts in the book, I suggest you refer to the Hornblower Companion's maps to see where the action is set.
Two other new elements become important in this story. Hornblower is getting older, and begins to develop an interest in his younger officers not unlike a father would have for a son. Yet these "sons" are in deadly peril. How will that affect Hornblower?
The other new perspective is that Hornblower spends a lot of time with diplomats, political figures, and even heads of state. These added dimensions will be attractive to those who would like to see new sides to Hornblower. If you read a lot of historical fiction, you will find this book comes closer to the classic story where the fictional character interacts frequently with well known historical figures.
Since Hornblower and Bush are both captains, you find their relationship becoming more like equals as it was in Lieutenant Hornblower. I enjoyed that shift.
Much like Hornblower and the Atropos, Commodore Hornblower takes some interesting looks at new technology, including naval mortars and methods for reducing the draft of bomb-ketches.
How can a leader set a good example? How should setting the right example be balanced with the need to get the right results? In Commodore Hornblower, Hornblower is torn between leading all of the action and encouraging his men to do the right thing. It's obviously a delicate balance that you will enjoy as Hornblower once again foils the Corsican tyrant in his own small way.
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on 15 May 1999
I'd like to answer the British Columbia readers question. There are 11 novels in C.S. Forrester's Hornblower saga. Additionally, at least one publisher has books that contain up to three of the novels in one volume. Interestingly, Forester didn't write the 11 books in chronological order. Consequently, some publishers elect to place numbers on the spine of each book to indicate where a particular title falls in the chronology. The current US printing (1999), by Back Bay Books, a division of Little Brown and Co., is not complete. At least the last three chronological titles (Commodore Hornblower, Lord Hornblower and Admiral Hornblower in the West Indies) will hit the shelves later in 1999. I can't wait. Each book stands on its own and every one is addictive.
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on 30 September 2012
I very much wanted to read these stories is sequence and had great difficulty working out in which order they came so I have added the list here.

I have now read them all and thoroughly enjoyed each one.

I started with 'The young Hornblower Omnibus', this contains 'Mr Midshipman Hornblower' 'Lieutenant Hornblower' and 'Hornblower and the Hotspur'.

'Captain Hornblower' follows on and again has three stories in sequence - 'Hornblower and the Antropos', The Happy return' and 'A Ship of the line'.

'Flying Colours' is next and is one book followed in order by 'The Commodore' and 'Lord Hornblower'.

'Hornblower in the West Indies' is next and again is a collection of stories which fit so well together that they read like one book.

The last is 'Hornblower and the Crisis and consists of three stories, each one highly entertaining, and ending in a rather satisfacory way. The first entitled 'The Crisis' is actually unfinished as the author died while writing it but there is enough to enable the reader to see where it was going.

The whole series is a joy from beginning to end.
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on 20 May 2010
There is definitely an air of finality with this book; Forester appears to be winding things down, tying off loose ends and setting Hornblower up for an unassuming retirement.

Or so one would think in the first half; in the second, a large proverbial spanner is thrown into the works with the return of the Emperor from exile. Hornblower's disheartening thoughts of domesticity are thrown asunder as he leads a rebellion through northern France. The book ends with a bit of a cliff hanger, a novel feature in the Hornblower saga.

This book flows quite differently from the other books in the series as two scenes or chapters may be separated by a "two months later..." scenario. The book itself is relatively short and one wonders whether or not Forester was slightly rushing the novel due to his ill health.

Whatever the reason for the slight change in style, this is still a very good book and I can't help feeling sad as the end of the series approaches.
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on 18 December 1998
My husband and I are collecting all the Hornblower books (preferably first editions). Excellent historical fiction. Great character development. I don't dare pick one up unless I am prepared to stay up until I finish it. Saw the old movie too!
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on 25 September 2010
Ioan Gruffud is the modern face of Hornblower and he sounds great on these audio-books. The problem is that they are heavily abridged and really badly so. I swear there is less than half the actual book in each recording - even when you know the story inside out, the heavyhanded editing makes it very difficult to follow the story. They are not worth the money. I won't bother buying the rest of the set. I wouldn't keep them if I was given them for free. And of course, it goes without saying, the extremely expensive fixed postage costs (set by Amazon, not the actual seller) just make the whole deal a very expensive, and disappointing rip-off. Unless you are absolutely addicted to Ioan, just don't bother!
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