“Victory”

Julian Stockwin

I love the Kydd series, but this one focuses too much on the setpiece Battle of Trafalger scenes and too little on Kydd and his friend Renzi.  Stockwin spent half  of this book not on his main characters but with a midshipman aboard Nelson’s “Victory”: I enjoyed the other half.  Still, given the excellence of its predecessors I  eagerly await the next Kydd book.

“Invasion”

Julian Stockwin

I was really looking forward to this book, since nearly all the books in the Thomas Kydd series have, like the previous one, been consistently excellent.  Sadly, this one is a disappointment.  Kydd and his friend Nicholas Renzi get involved with Robert Fulton’s work on the submarine, both undercover in France and in England.  The largely factual history of Fulton’s experiments are interesting, but I wanted to see Kydd and Renzi develop further.  This one just doesn’t move the series along.

“The Privateer’s Revenge”

Julian Stockwin

Following the heartbreaking end to “The Admiral’s Daughter”, Stockwin’s up-from-the-ranks hero Thomas Kydd is severely depressed.  A scandal has ended his navel career.  We know that the hero of a series won’t be killed, but here Stockwin heaps so much trouble on Kydd’s shoulders that it seems death might be preferable.

Anyone looking for a lot of action might be disappointed in this volume in the series, but I enjoyed it a lot.  It bears Stockwin’s hallmark: consistent quality.  I just wish he’d write faster.

“The Admiral’s Daughter”

Julian Stockwin

In this, the latest in Stockwin’s Kydd series, war has once again broken out with France and Kydd has been assigned to patrol the coast of England in search of privateers and smugglers. The coast itself becomes a character. It’s an unusual environment as well as good example of Stockwin’s ability to come up with fresh ideas within the “fighting sail” genre.

Stockwin’s books aren’t all storm and cannon fire. In this novel Kydd’s social advancement seems assured when he reaches an “understanding” with his admiral’s daughter but eventually he must decide whether he values love more than status.

As usual with the Kydd books, I read this one quickly and am eagerly awaiting the next one.

“Tenacious”

Julian Stockwin

Stockwin’s hero, Thomas Kydd, here begins to feel ambition but finds that it does not necessarily lead to fame; he then faces doubt about whether he’s a mere glory seeker. Meanwhile his friend Renzi must choose between his high-born inheritance or his naval life. “Tenacious” includes actions seldom seen in “fighting sail” books: the Battle of the Nile and – with a description worthy of Bernard Cornwell, the Siege of Acre.

Unusually for a book in this genre, Stockwin’s characters continue to develop.

“Quarterdeck”

Julian Stockwin

This is the first book in Stockwin’s Kydd series in which Thomas Kydd is an officer. In it, Kydd – a former pressed sailor – struggles to find his place socially with his friend Renzi as his Professor Henry Higgins

This is a good book, devoted more to manners and personal conflict than action. Part of the story revolves around Kydd’s exposure to the new US Navy; he is tempted by their more egalitarian style.

I have some concern that the sailor’s-eye view that distinguished this series will no longer be present, but the book does move the series and its characters forward.

“Mutiny”

Julian Stockwin

Tom Kydd is master’s mate on a frigate at the beginning of this, the fourth in Stockwin’s excellent wooden ships and iron men series. Kydd courts a married woman, takes part in a secret mission to Venice, gets involved in a fleet mutiny, and fights in a major naval battle. Action, characterization, setting, and technical detail are all present in generous quantities.

This may be the best book ever written in this genre, Patrick O’Brian not excepted.

“Artemis”

Julian Stockwin

This is the second of Stockwin’s novels about British sailor Thomas Kydd. “Artemis”, Kydd’s new ship, is a frigate with an aggressive captain. After a battle early in the book Kydd goes home to help his family but discovers that he is no longer the wigmaker who was pressed into service; he has become a sailor and he misses the sea. He returns to “Artemis” as it’s leaving on a journey to India and China, a journey that will ultimately lead to the South Pacific and Cape Horn.

In some ways this is a typical novel about the 19th century Royal Navy, but Stockwin’s focus on a somewhat naive sailor rather than on an officer distinguishes it from the pack.