Retro Friday: A Stranger to Command

Retro Friday is a weekly meme hosted by Angie over at Angieville, which features old favorites or under-the-radar books that don’t get enough attention. For my Retro Friday post today, I thought I’d write about a book by one of my favorite authors – A Stranger to Command by Sherwood Smith. This book is the prequel to the more popular Crown Duel but focuses only on Vidanric and his life as a teenager.

Here’s the summary from Sherwood Smith’s website:

This is the young adult prequel to Crown Duel, telling the story of Vidanric Renselaues, sent to Marloven Hess at age fifteen to learn military command. Shevraeth has spent his boyhood as a courtier and knows little more than the art of dueling, but an increasingly bad king, and the disappearance of heirs whom the king doesn’t like, make it clear that one day, things would have to change.

But first, Vidanric would have to change. Beginning by losing his name, and taking on an identity under his territorial title, Shevraeth. Would he lose his real identity?

I love Crown Duel and it’s in my list of favorites. Vidanric is also in my list of fictional guy crushes. I loved that Sherwood wrote Crown Duel outtakes, which involved certain scenes told from the point of view of Vidanric (these are included in the e-book version, which can be purchased here). Vidanric was so aloof for the most of Crown Duel so it was refreshing to see his side of the story. A Stranger to Command gives us a more intimate look at how Vidanric became the person that he was in Crown Duel. For some reason, even though Crown Duel is popular, not a lot of people know that there’s a prequel for it.

I put off reading this book for some time because one of the biggest highlights of Crown Duel for me was the love story between Mel and Vidanric. I didn’t want to read about Vidanric without Mel in the picture. But being a Sherwood Smith fan, I gave in eventually and I don’t regret doing so. Vidanric is sent to the foreign land of Marloven Hess to begin his military training and this is how he gains his formidable fighting skills. It’s not easy for him to leave his family and the comforts of the life that he’s known but it’s necessary for his safety and for the future good of Remalna that he train himself in the art of war. Marlovens are experts at this, they have studied military command for centuries. They have a military school that takes in students as young as ten years old. Training begins early for these people. At fifteen, Vidanric is actually old for a beginner and he’s a foreigner to boot. It’s the first time that the school allowed a foreigner to enter. So aside from the difficulties of training and adjusting to a new environment, Vidanric has to deal with the hostilities of his classmates. He does it with the aplomb that we’ve come to expect of his character.

This is an excellent, character-driven story in the same wonderful world of Crown Duel. There’s magic, political intrigue, romance and a whole lot of other challenges that make things interesting. I highly recommend this book to fans of Crown Duel, I know that there are many out there. It has the same lovely writing and is set in the same world albeit a different country. I also enjoyed seeing the references to the Inda series, which I read before this one. Hmm that reminds me, maybe I should do a Retro Friday post for the Inda books as well.

10 thoughts on “Retro Friday: A Stranger to Command

  1. Hey, guess what Angie? I loved this one too!

    But I LOATHE the picture of the cover dude with a PASSIONATE INTENSITY. He looks much too wet. (and I hope that if real life Cover Dude reads this, or if he is one of Sherwood Smith’s nearest and dearest, they forgive me for saying that)

  2. Evert, I ♥ Vidanric too! You should read this one!

    Charlotte, this is Chachic! I think you got confused because this is Angie’s meme? πŸ™‚ The paperback cover is a lot better than the hardcover (the one in yellow) although it features the same guy. He’s a student of Sherwood Smith! I think he’s from Germany.

    Emily, I hope you’ll give this a try. Have you read Crown Duel though? Better read that first.

  3. Lol. I can see you are going to slowly but surely get me to read more Sherwood Smith, Chachic. πŸ™‚

    You’ve sold me with this one, though. I *loved* Vidanric in CROWN DUEL and I would have held off for the same reason you say. I don’t want to see him without Mel. It might hurt. But you’ve convinced me I’ll be fine. And I shouldn’t miss it. Thanks!

  4. Angie, that’s the plan! Haven’t you noticed that I’m trying to convince you to read the books that I write about in my Retro Friday posts? πŸ˜› I hope you do read this one because I’d love to hear what you think of it.

  5. Charlottoe, no worries! πŸ™‚ I’m very flattered that you thought I was Angie! Just read your post about ALA and I’m glad you were able to go there.

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