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A Stranger to Command

(Crown & Court #0.5)

4.01  ·  Rating details ·  1,574 ratings  ·  200 reviews
A STRANGER TO COMMANDIn this much-anticipated prequel to CROWN DUEL, Vidanric Renselaeus, fifteen-year-old Marquis of Shevraeth, finds himself sent across the continent to a military academy in Marloven Hess, a kingdom known for its violent history. Vidanric is used to civilized life in pleasant Remalna--except that the evidence is increasingly clear that the civilization ...more
Hardcover, 476 pages
Published August 1st 2008 by YA Angst
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Morgan PG to PG-13. There is very little sexual content (think just kisses), no swearing, but at some point a main character kills a few men. This encounter …morePG to PG-13. There is very little sexual content (think just kisses), no swearing, but at some point a main character kills a few men. This encounter is not detailed or especially gorey. Maybe a PG+?(less)

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Average rating 4.01  · 
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 ·  1,574 ratings  ·  200 reviews

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Jun 06, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: reviewed
March 2016: This is still weirdly compelling and evocative. I say weirdly, because I can't quite pin my finger on why this is so successful (and this is after multiple rereads over the last few years). Maybe it's alternate school story charm, albeit a fairly unusual school? Maybe it's sympathy for the isolated protagonist?

Somehow, I can read this story of said isolated protagonist - no friends, really, even after years in the school; nothing more than friendly acquaintances - and yet I can find
Laura (Kyahgirl)
4.5/5; 5 stars ; A

Re-read April 2018: I won’t change my rating or review. Loved it even more this time. Thank you Sherwood Smith for renewing my belief that the main characters in a book can be all teenagers and Not be annoying!

March 2016 review:

This book is, by far, my favorite of those I've listened to by this author. The fantastic narration is a big factor. Fred Berman has a voice that can seamlessly move between young and old voices, as well as male and female. I liked how the bulk of t
Melissa McShane
Okay, I have a confession. I didn't read this book for the longest time because the print copy has a picture of some young man who TOTALLY does not match my image of Shevraeth, staring off into the middle distance as if he has just cut one and is hoping no one notices. My apologies to the young man in the picture.

I love prequels. I love the narrative naivete that has the characters saying things where the reader knows what's going to happen but the characters don't. I love getting a different pe
Jacob Proffitt
Mar 26, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fantasy, favorite
This is a "proper" prequel in that knowing the "future" events in Crown Duel enhances the story and emotional connection in important ways. This book is the story of Vidanric's training during the years he spent away from Remalna that are so key to who he becomes. Interestingly, it isn't just the martial and command training, but we also get to see the formation of his theories of government, royalty, and the duties of rulership. And it is interesting as Smith fits his theoretical journey into t ...more
Clare Cannon
Apr 29, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: 12 years - YA

This review is not for Sherwood fans (who will read and love this book regardless), but for anyone looking for a book which will contribute something to their lives. It will be very hard to write it without sounding over-enthusiastic in my praise. Please remember that whatever else I say, this book is both down to earth and highly entertaining.

Don’t be discouraged if the plot appears narrow at first: in a time that feels medieval a fifteen year old boy attends a foreign military command scho
Apr 07, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-ebooks
Mh, young boys and academies. I’m not usually too keen about straight coming-of-age tales, much less those revolving around training schools, yet lately I've read almost two in a row, go figure. Anyway, I really liked this one. I had my first Sherwood Smith's taste when I picked the excellent -and I mean excellent- The Trouble with Kings, a story that within the borders of YA literature starts deceptively simple and becomes truly riveting.

Its world-building was particularly intriguing, if light,
Feb 24, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: reviewed
Read this book instead of Ender's Game.

A child is sent into a foreign and militaristic world. He encounters kindness, bullies, and seemingly arbitrary rules. He is smart enough to learn how to work the system and innovate within it.

They key difference is that unlike Ender, Vidanric/Shaveraeth achieves his goals through kindness. He still builds community, but it is based on respect instead of a combination of respect and fear.

Ender's Game meant a lot to me as a very bright kid who felt alone, bu
Aug 02, 2009 rated it liked it
Shelves: school, fantasy, ya
Despite the veneer of fantasy, this is essentially a school story with a culture-clash twist. The king of Remalna is in the habit of having fatal accidents happen to the heirs of prominent nobles, so young Vidanric's parents send him to a military academy in a far-off land. Vidanric comes from a more courtly and less martial culture, and most of the book is taken up with his efforts to learn new skills and adapt. There are occasional hints of foreign threats ("the EVIL Norsunders!") but nothing ...more
Miss Clark
Sep 24, 2008 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Anyone who A) Really loves Crown Duel B) Really loves Sherwood Smith
Recommended to Miss Clark by: Athanarel
Love Senrid and Liere. Cannot wait to read their stories. Love Vidanric's parents madly. They are so amazing. Is there a story somewhere that tells their tale?

I like the promise that Elestra has Vidanric make and then she says that she and Alaric have to practice it as well.

Vidanric is trying to come to an understanding of authority, Civilization. Kingship. Command. Duty. Love. Right and wrong. It really is a growing up/ maturing/ coming-of-age tale for him. (He has a little D-Y. He can pick up
First of all, that cover is horrid.

A) He looks vapid

B) He doesn't look anything like I pictured Vidanric

C) My mom said he looked like he was in his undershirt

D) I am very sure that they could have found a better looking guy

All that said, I still loved this book. I don't know why I liked it so much, but I did. I will not be able to write a review worthy of this book, so I am going to keep it nice and short. At the end, I felt like I wanted more. There were so many questions running through my hea
Rachel Neumeier
Sep 03, 2013 rated it it was amazing
You know how uber-confident Shevraeth is in Crown Duel / Court Duel. You know how he got that way? Not by sheer authorial fiat, it turns out. No. He got that way because of his background, which is covered in A Stranger to Command – which can be read either before or after the duology, but I enjoyed reading it afterward. It is a much slower paced novel dealing with Shevraeth’s years in a military school in a foreign country, and it is so interesting, because Smith totally deals with the day-to-d ...more
Nov 20, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fantasy, ya
"Stranger to Command" is the prequel to "Crown Duel" and, in a way, a sequel to "Senrid." You don't need to have read either of these books to understand and enjoy "Stranger to Command" though some of the references will (obviously) have more meaning if you've read these books. Because of this, I'd actually recommend reading "Crown Duel" before "Stranger to Command" even though this is technically the prequel.

The world-building was excellent. The clash of unique cultures--Remalna manners against
Dec 20, 2010 rated it liked it
OK. So I like Sherwood Smith's stuff, especially Court Duel, which is why I read this, and I liked this book, too, but I don't feel like it's her best work.

To be honest I'm not sure why she's publishing with this publisher. Why?

1. I feel like the editing isn't that great. Basically, it's like what I've heard about cutting gems out of rocks, the gem is hidden and it takes work to reveal it and set it off to its best advantage. I feel like there is a good story in this book, but it's hidden by a
This is a prequel to Crown Duel and is related also to Senrid (which I didn't know before reading it), but I think it stands very well on its own.

Fifteen-year-old Vidanric Renselaeus, Marquis of Shevraeth, has been sent from his home in Remalna to a military academy in Marloven Hess in order to escape political unrest at home, where the king is increasingly out of control. In Marloven Hess, Vidanric must learn and accept many new things: a new name (the Marlovens assume his title, Shevraeth, is
Nov 16, 2011 rated it it was amazing
This book is the prequel to Crown Duel and certainly provides interesting background to the other two stories.
I loved the way Vidanric is painted and develops over the story. Then when you read the next two books so many of his actions have a rich background full of intrigue.

I re-read Crown Duel and Court Duel and loved them even more with this fascinating background in my mind.

I have always wondered how Sherwood Smith's various series related to each other and had not found the answer on
Jul 17, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I remember surprisingly little of Crown Duel, I must read it again.

After having read the Inda series, this did a fantastic reread. Now I’m trying to puzzle out which books to read next, I know about the chronological order ( but finding what is published and how to get a copy is going to be an adventure.

I love how all the little bits fit together and I do like the academy a lot.
Sep 06, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fantasy, ya
Working on a 'proper' write-up of this, but for now, will just say that I loved it. Prequel to the Crown and Court Duet, which raised high expectations - and they were met. ...more
I've been meaning to read this forever, because--Vidanric/Shevraeth backstory from Crown Duel plus the Marlovan Academy centuries into the future of the Inda series, equals, well, relevant to my interests ;).

I picked it up one night while I was meant to be KonMari-ing my books, and before I knew it, it was one a.m. and I'd read half the book. But Sherwood Smith books are like that, and this one is no exception. You always know when you're reading a Sherwood Smith book, and not just because most
Lekhana Gogineni
I liked exploring more of Vidanric's character in this book, it was really interesting to discover how Vidanric (Shevraeth) became who he is in the Crown and Court series. Another character I liked was Senrid, he's probably one of my favorite characters in the whole sartorias-deles world. I cannot wait long enough for The Young Allies series. ...more
Alfred Haplo
What makes the man. A Stranger to Command is a character-driven prequel for Vidanric Renselaeus, Marquis of Shevraeth, whom I was first impressed by in Sherwood Smith's Crown/Court Duel and thought him the most grounded character ever. Here, we find out why.

My only quibble is the oft-references to other events, characters and places in the centuries-long timeline of Smith's extensive Sartoria-deles world. They have significant import to the overall story arc but without the benefit of backg
Apr 29, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
My review after reading this book for the second time:
"Honestly, A Stranger To Command is totally one of my favorite books of all time right now! I love it! Plus it makes a really fun and great re-read, too!

It also has a strongly prominent more serious side to it, which I thought was very well done, and which I quite liked. A Stranger To Command is one of the most brilliant and deeply moving books I have ever read. I have often heard that each book we read leaves its own individual mark upon our
Virginia Ballesty
Jun 19, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I’m usually hesitant about picking up prequel books. Prequel’s can be a hard sell in terms of keeping characters consistent with their older selves and keeping tension in the plot when the reader already knows how it ends. I made an exception in this case because I like Sherwood Smith and really enjoyed Crown Duel and Court Duel… I’m glad I did, this book certainly wasn’t a disappointment.

The Good:
-As always, Sherwood Smith’s world is incredibly detailed and easy to fall in to. She has a wonderf
Feb 15, 2010 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Sherwood Smith fans
Looks like I forgot to cross-post my review of this. I wrote it in my blog last year:

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 Com
Apr 22, 2010 rated it liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Steph Su
Feb 17, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: e-book
Oh goodness, but this book did take me ages to finish! Hard to imagine that happening to any story containing any beloved character from the most awesome Crown Duel. Alas, Vidanric's years-long education at Marloven Hess was not as easy for me to read as Meliara's adventures and character growth. The truth of the matter is that very little happens in this book beyond the typical growth experienced by a young man at an academy. If you're the kind who appreciates and can be extremely patient with ...more
#artdamnit Reads
May 31, 2011 rated it really liked it
A Stranger to Command by Sherwood Smith is a prequel to Crown Duel about Vindanric’s life as a teenager when he gets sent away to the military land of Marloven Hess when a lot of the heirs start having quite a few riding “accidents.”

My intrest in reading this book though wasn’t really to see Vindanric as a teen (though i would love to read Crown Duel entirely in his point of view!) but to see how much Marloven Hess changed from the Inda Series. And it was pretty cool, you get a more in depth vie
Read Stories
Jul 17, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I enjoyed most parts of the story, especially the commentary on complex human motivations, emotions, and relationships. Plotwise, the overnights (basically capture-the-flag games that last 2 days) were exciting to read, even when it takes up the whole chapter. Although, by the time I was reading about Vidanric going on another overnight for the SIXTH time, I was wishing for them to stop talking about overnights. The story was getting repetitive, and I wish this long book was edited down a bit an ...more
Mar 10, 2012 rated it really liked it
A prequel to Crown Duel which tells Shevraeth's story from entering the military academy in far off Marloven Hess as an untried fifteen year old to emerging as a competent commander and swordsman with a mission to take the throne of his own country from a paranoid tyrant who is killing those he sees as rivals in a series of unfortunate accidents.

It's a right of passage novel, particularly interesting for taking another look at the Marlovan Academy which has evolved, but in some ways hardly chang
Oct 06, 2013 rated it really liked it
Fellow YA fan, Hoolie, who has recommended many of the books I have read and loved, said I first I should read Crown Duel(sold as Crown Duel and Court Duel together) followed by the prequel A Stranger to Command by Sherwood Smith. This was an excellent suggestion. It took me a while after reading the entertaining medieval, fantasy Crown Duel to start A Stranger to Command but once I did, I was hooked! Now I am re-reading Crown Duel to stay with the characters longer. Sherwood Smith has written m ...more
Jul 25, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
1/10/2021: finished another reread of this book and, again, I love it so much. It’s enjoyable from the beginning to the end and I love seeing the POV of one of my favorite characters, Shevraeth. I’m going to have to reread the others in the Sartorius-Delas series now, as I need to freshen up before reading A Sword Named Truth (which has been on my TBR forever).


This is one of my absolute FAVORITE books. I love, love, love everything about this book. The Marquis of Shevraeth is a fantastic chara
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I am a writer, but I'm here on Goodreads to talk about books, as I've been a passionate reader as long as I've been a writer--since early childhood.

I'm not going to rate books--there are too many variables. I'd rather talk about the reading experience. My 'reviews' of my books are confined to the writing process.


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Crown & Court (2 books)
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  • Court Duel (Crown & Court, #2)

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