The third installment in the exciting First Admiral Series, Time Commander follows the continuing adventures of Billy Caudwell; the teenage First Admiral of the Universal Alliance Fleet as he strives to prevent a long, protracted and bloody war with the Ganthorans.
Having defeated a Ganthoran Frontier Fleet General in battle, Billy Caudwell must undertake the dangerous ‘Time Warrior Ritual’. In the ritual, Billy has to re-fight (and win) a major battle, that in the history of his species was lost – and in which the losing Commander was killed. To prevent years, possibly decades, of costly warfare, Billy must complete the ritual and claim the Crystal Throne of Ganthus. If Billy completes the challenge, he will become the Emperor of the Ganthorans. If he fails, he will die on a historical battlefield from Earth’s past.
Sinister powerful and xenophobic forces among the Ganthoran aristocracy and military are ranged against Billy, determined to prevent an alien claiming the Crystal Throne.
Can Billy survive the challenge and avert a brutal and costly war?
As the previous books in the series I have flagged this book as young adult in my collection although this installment is much less young adult than the two previous ones. The writing as well as the story is much more mature. Having said that the core story is, by nature, definitely young adult material so I would say that this book still merits being flagged as young adult.
The book starts off right away with a major space battle which was indeed fun reading. It then changes pace and style rather dramatically when it dives into the subject of the Time Warrior Ritual. Although in no way devoid of action this part also goes into the realm of subversive treachery and political power plays. Although I am normally not very happy about these kinds of things it is not too intrusive in this book and it is a key element of the plot that would be difficult to do without. I am also, generally, not too keen on the kind of stories that throws the main characters back into a time and/or place where the only weaponry available are primitive ones like swords or black powder guns. Again, these parts still made for quite fun reading in this book. As I said, the book feels much more mature than the previous ones. Both in terms of the actual story but also the writing itself. I quite liked it.
The book also flips back to earth from time to time to tell somewhat of a side story involving the Caudwell parents. I felt a lot of this was simply filler material and it did not really go anywhere except for a few bits and pieces that teased of some interesting things that may come in future books. It would have been nice if there would have been a little more of Billy’s secret life in relation to his friends (and his not so friendly acquaintances). I have to admit that I was a bit disappointed when all of the revelations about Billy were just wiped out in the previous book. I would like to see some more permanent wow-style revelations in a future book.
The main problem I had with this book was the enormous cliffhanger at the end. Come on! The book simply stops at the height of the excitement just like some silly old TV-show. I really do not like this kind of “endings”. Sure, leave an incitement to read the next book but do not do it by depriving the reader from all forms of conclusion or sense of completion. This book felt like it was the first half of a book that was just cut in half or even not completed but still the first half was shoved out of the door as soon as it was ready.
While griping about things anyway I have to say that the Ganthoran weapon system did not impress me. Weapons based on sound waves … in space !? Yes, yes, the author states that these sound waves are delivered to the target by some electro-magnetic means but still… Way to far-fetched for me.
That aside, I think these books have so far improved by each book. They are fairly uncomplicated adventure/sci-fi stories that are easy and fun to read. I am eagerly awaiting the next one.