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"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?"

"Yes, Adele," Daniel said, "But he also knows that we're the RCN. No Alliance commander ever forgets that."

"Ah," Adele said. "Yes, I understand."
-- 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)
Tropes used in RCN include:


  • A Man Is Not a Virgin: Daniel is stated to be good enough at seducing women to 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.
  • 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
  • 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. Once she frightened the head of Cinnabar Intelligence with her ability to penetrate Cinnabar systems, form queries, and make 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.
    • Porra's exiled mistress in What Distant Deeps also has a personal servant who's 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.
  • Becoming the Mask: As of In The Stormy Red Sky Adele believes this may be happening to Tovera.
  • Briefcase Blaster: Tovera.
  • The Captain: Daniel Leary
  • Casanova: Daniel Leary's favorite form of entertainment in port is seeking out willing women to sleep with. And he always finds them.
  • Death Seeker: Adele Mundy ... unfortunately she sucks at dying.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: Tovera castrates an enemy that was excessively, insultingly physical about searching Adele.
  • Duel to the Death: Adele in the Backstory
  • Earth-That-Was: Earth was all but destroyed by kinetic bombardment, the very continents rearranged unrecognizably.
  • 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
  • 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.
  • 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 been probably 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.
  • 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 Hammers 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.
  • Noble Savage: Believed by Adele's mother. Averted by the savage cultures encountered in the series.
  • 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.
  • Ragtag Bunch of Misfits: The series' True Companions consist of the disowned son of the most powerful politician on Cinnabar and playboy military hero, a lethal librarian/spy who is the sole survivor of the disgraced family massacred on the order of said aforementioned politician, a sociopathic former agent of Cinnabar's main enemy, and Leary's surrogate father who uses Obfuscating Stupidity so that people don't realize the hick peasant is the deadliest person in the room (if any of the other three aren't there).
  • 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 says 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.
  • 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).
  • The Sociopath: Tovera. Everyone who knows her, including herself, consider her a complete monster.
  • 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.
  • 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.
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