"But Daniel," Adele said, struggling to understand a situation devoid of logic. "Their ships are bigger and newer and there's more of them. Surely Admiral Chastelain knows that?"
—Lt. Leary, Commanding
David Drake's RCN (Republic of Cinnabar Navy) series is loosely based off the 18th century British navy, complete with spaceships that travel through hyperspace using sails. However, the sails are handled fairly realistically: stripping a ship's sails with a plasma cannon is a quick and easy way to keep it from escaping into hyperspace, the sails need to be furled and stowed before entering an atmosphere, and when deployed, interfere with the ship's realspace maneuvering and combat.
In the same way that Honor Harrington is Hornblower/Nelson IN SPACE, the RCN books are Patrick O'Brian IN SPACE, with Daniel Leary in the role of Jack Aubrey and Adele Mundy as Stephen Maturin (only with her being the ship's comms officer rather than its surgeon).
From the author's note from "The Way to Glory", third book in the series: "The general political background of the RCN series is that of Europe in the mid-eighteenth century, with admixtures of late-Republican Rome. (There's a surprising degree of congruence between British and Roman society in those periods.)"
Also known as
- The "Lt. Leary" series, after the primary main character.
- the "Republic of Cinnabar" series.
- the "Leary-Mundy" series, after the main characters.
- the "Lt. Leary, Commanding" series, after the title of the second book. The title of the first book, "With the Lightnings" did not lend itself to a series name.
- The "RCN" series is the nomenclature Drake uses, for Republic of Cinnabar Navy.
The books so far,
- With the Lightnings (1999).
- Lt. Leary, Commanding (2000).
- Title on the dust cover: RCN Lt. Leary, Commanding RCS Princess Cecile. A quirk is that the "R" in "RCN" has a stylized crown, suggesting the designer for the titles didn't know "R" stands here for "Republic" rather than "Royal."
- The Far Side of the Stars (2004)
- The Way to Glory (2005)
- Some Golden Harbor (2006)
- When the Tide Rises (2008)
- In the Stormy Red Sky (2009)
- What Distant Deeps (2010)
- The Road of Danger (2012)
- The Sea Without a Shore (2014)
- Death's Bright Day (2016)
- Though Hell Should Bar the Way (2018)
Drake has also written a few RCN short stories. "Cadet Cruise" is about Daniel Leary before he met Adele Mundy, and the viewpoint (but not title) character of "Midshipman" is Ellie Woetjans, again prior to the events of With the Lightnings when she became part of Leary's crew. Both can be found in the Baen Free Library at baen.com.
- A Man Is Not a Virgin: Daniel is stated to be good enough at seducing women that he could make his living at it. More recently he has settled down with Miranda Dorst.
- Always Save The Friend: Adele will do anything to rescue Daniel.
- American Customary Measurements: In the foreword of the first book, Drake explicitly states he has Cinnabar using imperial measurements, while the Alliance uses metric ones, to help differentiate the two polities. He repeats this in every book, emphasizing that he actually believes humanity three thousand years or so from now (if it survives that long) will have replaced both of those measurement systems.
- Asexuality: Adele is completely uninterested in sex and finds everyone's obsession with it irritating:
"Biology isn't one of my particular interests, Senator," she said in an upper class drawl. "I wouldn't be shocked if a maggot crawled out of your eye socket, though I'd find it vaguely disgusting."
- Bad Dreams: Adele has killed a lot of people and remembers every one.
- Badass Boast: "Every Alliance spacer ... knows that no matter how many ships they have, they've always got to expect us to go for their throats. Deep in their hearts, they're afraid and they know we aren't. We're the RCN." -- When the Tide Rises
- This is at least in part inspired by Britain's Royal Navy in the Wooden Ships and Iron Men period. As the Real Life section on that page notes, the Royal Navy often won against the odds "because they flat out refused to be afraid."
- Badass Bookworm - Lady Adele Mundy, Mundy of Chatsworth, one of the First Families of Cinnabar, Signals Officer in the RCN, pistol-packing Librarian. She's not only a Bookworm who's also badass, but equally Badass as a bookworm. She once frightened the head of Cinnabar Intelligence with her ability to penetrate Cinnabar systems, form queries, and make correct inferences from the result.
"The ship is to be the Hermes?" Adele said, her eyes on her display ... Sand cleared her throat, "I wouldn't normally pry into your sources of information, but I had reason to believe that only two people in the human universe had that information until now. If my communications with Admiral Anston aren't secure, then I really must know that." [After Adele's explanation] "I just realized that I've apparently ... leagued with a demon. But you're the Republic's demon, and I'm bloody well not going to let you go now that I've found you!"
- Battle Butler:
- Anyone disdaining either Tovera or Hogg as a simple servant is unlikely to live long enough to regret the mistake.
- Hogg himself makes this kind of mistake in The Sea Without a Shore. Tovera then tells him to take a real look at the young men acting as servants at Mistress Sand's townhouse. He does and promptly apologizes, saying in essence that his earlier remark would've been appropriate behavior for a drunken fool, and he's not drunk so he's got no excuse.
- Porra's exiled mistress in What Distant Deeps also has a personal servant whose real duty (everyone knows) is to keep an eye on her. She and Tovera spend a great deal of time ensuring each has a clean shot at the other if necessary.
- Anyone disdaining either Tovera or Hogg as a simple servant is unlikely to live long enough to regret the mistake.
- Because You Were Nice to Me: Lieutenant Mon was a capable but unlucky officer, who came to be regarded as a jinx. Daniel Leary gave him a position as his second in command, and later a job managing a shipyard of which Daniel is part owner -- and gave Mon a share of the ownership, too. Mon's loyalty to Daniel is absolute -- and the shipyard does very, very well under his management. Either he was only unlucky aboard ship, or Daniel Leary somehow negates Mon's bad luck....
- Becoming the Mask: As of In The Stormy Red Sky Adele believes this may be happening to Tovera.
- In The Sea Without a Shore Tovera reports hearing that somebody tried to push Leary around and "hadn't been pleased with the result." Adele notices Tovera seems genuinely proud that Daniel kicked ass (yet again).
- Briefcase Blaster: Tovera.
- The Captain: Daniel Leary
- Casanova: Daniel Leary's favorite form of entertainment in port, at least until he became involved with Miranda Dorst, was seeking out willing women to sleep with. And he always found them.
- Changing of the Guard: Though Hell Should Bar the Way included Daniel, Adele, etc., but the viewpoint character was new: Roy Olfetrie, a distant cousin of Daniel's wife Miranda. Daniel gave him a chance after Roy had to leave RCN training in disgrace that wasn't his fault. In addition, an entry on Drake's website indicates that To Clear Away the Shadows, due out in mid-2019, will focus on the crew of an entirely different RCN ship. That entry makes no reference to Leary and Mundy at all.
- Death Seeker: Adele Mundy ... unfortunately she sucks at dying.
- Disproportionate Retribution: Tovera castrates an enemy who was excessively, insultingly physical about searching Adele.
- Duel to the Death: Adele in the Backstory
- Early Installment Weirdness: In With the Lightnings, there's no mention or even hint that starships use sails. All references imply bare masts.
A ship preparing to enter sponge space with its masts extended in all directions looked like a sea urchin. The mast tips formed the points determining the size and shape of the field against which Cassini energy pressed.
- That term "sponge space" is only used in the first book; in all others, it's the Matrix. Also, the energy involved is termed "Casimir" rather than "Cassini" in later books.
- There's mention in With the Lightnings of a "Terran trade commissioner on Cinnabar at the time of the Three Circles Conspiracy" fifteen years past, indicating Earth was still (or again) economically significant at that time. "Earth-That-Was" below makes clear why that can't be true.
- Earth-That-Was: Earth was all but destroyed by kinetic bombardment (two thousand years ago, according to one reference), the very continents rearranged unrecognizably.
- Even Evil Has Standards: Guarantor Porra is a brutal dictator, but Tovera says that while he might order children tortured as a matter of policy, he'd be disgusted to learn one of his officials was torturing children simply for sexual kicks. Disgusted enough to have the man tracked down and executed, no matter how competent at his duties the fellow was.
- Everything Is an iPod In The Future: Adele's most cherished possession is her handheld computer. She is never found without both that and her dueling pistol. And the first is more lethal
- Fantastic Racism: "Men whose idea of patriotism was that anyone not from Cinnabar was a wog with no honor and no rights." The members of the RCN feel that way about pretty much anyone not in the RCN, and not a few in it. This attitude shows up on Earth in the Aubrey-Maturin series, which RCN is based on, and is apparently Truth in Television.
- Foil: Adele is an introverted bookworm who's friends with the extrovert Daniel. Also, the extremely co-dependent Tovera mirrors the independent Hogg.
- Glove Slap: Adele in a Crowning Moment of Awesome to a slimy (allied) intelligence officer in With The Lightnings.
- Harmful to Minors: Adele's ten-year-old sister was forced into prostitution before being decapitated. The severed head was then placed on public view.
- Heel Face Turn: Tovera at the end of With the Lightnings.
- Hyperspace Is a Scary Place: Too much time spent in the Matrix (the series' means of FTL travel, no relation to the film by that name) causes humans to hallucinate, though it's implied that in some cases they may be seeing into alternate realities rather than hallucinating.
- Improbable Aiming Skills: Adele Mundy with a pistol; Hogg with a long gun.
- Indy Ploy: Daniel prefers to plan ahead, and does it well, but it can be almost frightening watching how smoothly he adjusts if something ruins his current plan.
- Insistent Terminology: If you refer to it as "the Navy" rather than "the RCN," you're obviously not part of it.
- In Space!: Aubrey-Maturin. It could be mistaken for Horatio Hornblower, but that's already taken.
- Interspecies Romance: Reptilian alien Fallert and Tovera
may have beenprobably were intimate in Some Golden Harbor; Daniel was thoroughly Squicked by the prospect.
- Kid with the Leash: Adele with Tovera. Adele keeps her around partially as a reminder that Bad Dreams are far from the worst possible consequence of her chosen lifestyle.
- Magnetic Hero: Let the word get out that Captain Leary is recruiting. Watch people who've shipped with him before come running to sign up. This includes a few who're rich enough from previous missions that they need never work again. "Six needs me...."
- Mythology Gag: A brief reference in In the Stormy Red Sky to a medicinal plant known as "bluebrights" and grown on the planet Melpomene. The chronologically first Hammer's Slammers story takes place on Melpomene and mentions that bluebrights are the planet's only export. The technologies used are different enough that the Slammers and the RCN can not be part of the same future history.
- Nice Girl: Miranda Dorst, eventually Miranda Leary. A measure of how nice is that Tovera will escort her into Adele's presence without the sort of paranoid precautions she applies to most people. Being nice definitely doesn't make her a pushover, either. When she comes along with the sailors to help Leary escape an ambush, she looks around to see if there's still anyone who needs clobbering with her hockey stick before she goes to Daniel and hugs him.
- Noble Savage: Believed by Adele's mother. Averted by the savage cultures encountered in the series.
- No Kill Like Overkill: Actually, they were just playing it safe in case one of the others missed, but one hostage-taker got shot through the lungs by Hogg -- the slug penetrated a brick wall before it hit the guy's torso -- shot twice in the side of the head by Adele, and shot three times in the other side of the head by Tovera. And then Daniel tackled him.
- Not So Different: Adele has the "particularly unpleasant" realization in The Sea Without a Shore that, if faced with a situation much like the conspiracy that got her family killed, she would advise crushing it in exactly the way Corder Leary ended that one -- with mass killings. Elaborating on that, she thinks if Daniel had been running the Republic, he wouldn't have ordered the massacre ... at most he might have looked the other way while "his advisor, Lady Mundy," gave those orders.
- In With the Lightnings, both the backstory of both Daniel and Adele tells how they remember the Three Circles Conspiracy as children huddling in fear.
- In With the Lightnings both the Alliance and the Cinnabarans look down on the Kostramans for being provincial and militarily incompetent.
- Parental Abandonment: Adele's entire family was killed by Daniel's father during a failed revolution on Cinnabar. Daniel was disowned by his father following his mother's death.
- People's Republic of Tyranny: The bad guys mostly come from the "Alliance of Free Stars."
- Psycho Sidekick: Adele's servant Tovera. Also Daniel's servant Hogg. Fortunately, they get along well.
- Punch Clock Hero: Daniel fights because being in the RCN is his job. Adele fights because Daniel is her friend. And most of the Cinnabars have a nationalistic attitude that is engaging enough in some contexts if exasperating in others, but which most resembles that of a sports fan for his team. Really, while Cinnabar might theoretically be a better state than the Alliance, that has nothing to do with why they're fighting.
- Put Their Heads Together: Done by Daniel in When the Tide Rises; Adele found it a "remarkable reminder" of his strength.
- Ragtag Bunch of Misfits: The series' True Companions consist of a playboy military hero who is the disowned son of the most powerful politician on Cinnabar, a lethal librarian/spy who is sole survivor of a disgraced family massacred on orders of the aforementioned politician, a sociopathic former agent of Cinnabar's main enemy, and Leary's surrogate father who uses Obfuscating Stupidity so people don't realize the hick peasant is the deadliest person in the room (if any of the other three aren't there).
- Running Gag: Adele's clumsiness in physical contexts not related to computers or shooting comes up at least once in virtually every book. In The Sea Without a Shore, Daniel has her secured to the ship and to himself by safety lines ... and he still worries that she'll somehow manage to slip and be lost in the Matrix. "Adele had done quite a number of things which no one else could imagine. Most of them were good, but she really had proven remarkably clumsy on shipboard."
- Series Continuity Error:
- Characters occasionally referred to "God," singular, up until somewhere in When the Tide Rises, after which they seem to always speak of "the Gods."
- In the Stormy Red Sky gives the Alliance dictator's name as "Jorge Porra". In What Distant Deeps, however, Porra's former mistress speaks of him as "Guillaume." Possibly this is just her name for him.
- Adele's sister Agatha was ten when she died. Except that The Sea Without a Shore says she was eight. The means of her death varies from book to book, too: either she was strangled to death and then her head cut off, or the beheading was what killed her, or she died by being stabbed.
- Adele learned librarianship at the intellectual center of the Alliance on the planet Bryce. Or Blythe, depending on which book you read.
- See also Early Installment Weirdness above.
- Shoot the Dog: Adele blows up a ship full of hostages to demonstrate her resolve in In The Stormy Red Sky. Immediately subverted by Tovera noting the Fifth Bureau would have killed the hostages before surrendering as SOP.
- Slasher Smile: Tovera and sometimes Adele.
- Theme Naming: Similar to some historical navies, RCN ships often fall into theme-named classes - "Archaeologist-class cruisers" such as the Maspero and "Philosopher-class battleships" like the Lao-tze. More unusual is that although there's nothing especially German about Alliance personal names, Alliance warships above the level of destroyers almost always have German names (the most noticeable exception is named after the Alliance capital world). A later book indicates most Alliance shipbuilding is done on a world that appears to be ethnically German.
- The Sociopath: Tovera. Everyone who knows her, including herself, consider her a complete monster. Well, maybe everyone except Hogg.
- Tranquil Fury: Adele all the time.
- True Companions: Leary notes to himself in What Distant Deeps that he, Adele, Tovera, and Hogg have become a weird kind of family.
- Later, Leary offers that even if Adele were killed, there'd still be a place for Tovera with him and Hogg. Tovera giggles, saying, "You think I'm a dangerous insect." Daniel tells her his gun is dangerous, but he doesn't think it'll randomly kill him or anyone that's his, and he doesn't think she would either. (He doesn't deny the "insect" part, because he won't lie to her.) Tovera thanks him, but says she'd still rather seek death in a Roaring Rampage of Revenge. The conversation is kind of heartwarming, in a twisted way.
- We ARE Struggling Together: The different clans and cliques of the Kostromans are always fighting to be boss until one clan calls in the Alliance-and finds out who is boss.
- When She Smiles: It's not explicitly tied to her smile, but Miranda Dorst, who's normally just "a girl who drew a man's eyes at least once," becomes "oddly beautiful" when in Daniel's company.
- While Daniel's smile isn't described as changing his looks, the first book notes that it's such a naturally warm expression that when he smiles at something he's thinking, strangers on the street smile back.
- Worthless Yellow Rocks RCNVerse gun barrels are made of iridium. And shoot osmium bullets. Both metals are rarer and more expensive than platinum in Real Life.
- Worthy Opponent: In The Far Side of the Stars, Daniel happens to meet an Alliance officer at a funeral they're attending during an armistice. He distinctly remembers that at least one decoration the man wears is not given for political nepotism.
- Yes, Hogg was aiming without a direct line of sight, based on what a spy camera showed him of the fellow's position. And yes, with his first and only shot he scored a hit that would've been fatal all by itself.
- And the destroyers are usually given an alphanumeric designation beginning with "Z" -- the first letter of the German word for destroyer.