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.
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.