According to Wikipedia, a sloop-of-war was a small sailing warship with a single gun deck that carried up to eighteen cannons. However, as the rating system covered all vessels with 20 guns and above, this meant that the term sloop-of-war actually encompassed all the unrated combat vessels including gun-brigs and cutters.
This novel, written by Douglas Reeman under his pen name Alexander Kent, takes place in 1778. This was the year when the young Richard Bolitho’s future changed. It was the year in which the American War of Independence changed to an all-out struggle for freedom from British rule – and the year when Bolitho took his first command as a captain, on HMS Sparrow, a small, fast and well-armed sloop of war.
As the pace of war increased, the Sparrow was called from one crisis to another – and when the great fleets of Britain and France converged on the Chesapeake, Bolitho had to throw aside the early dreams of his first command to find maturity in a sea battle that might decide the fate of a whole continent.
Sloop of War follows a format that Kent also used writing as Douglas Reeman in H. M. S. Saracen, i.e. with two separate and almost stand-alone parts to the novel. In Sloop of War, the separation in time between the two halves is much briefer.
With Sloop of War, a quite stunning and delightful novel – packed with action and intrigue – Alexander Kent has clearly established himself as an author with virtually no equal today in writing stirring and authentic stories of the eighteenth-century Navy.