Julian Stockwin,
Kydd #7: Command
(Hodder & Stoughton, 2006; McBooks, 2008)

Tom Kydd's career with the British navy hangs from a very narrow thread when, as is customary where Kydd is concerned, a great deal of unexpected good luck comes his way and, instead of being cashiered from the service, he finds himself captaining his very own ship off Malta.

Setting aside the unlikelihood of the events that put him there, it's a treat once Kydd arrives. His ship, Teazer, is fresh from the yard, and we get to watch as her untried captain prepares her for her maiden run; officers, crew, rigging and supplies all come together under Kydd's uncertain, but sometimes almost giddy leadership.

Then things get serious, as the Teazer sets out to meet her fate. There are dispatches to deliver and fruitless horizons to search, but this tiny brig has ample opportunity to test her guns against England's foes.

But then England and France make peace, and Kydd -- like a great many naval officers at the time -- finds himself beached, without means and no future employment in sight. Desperate, he takes a job commanding a prison ship to Australia, where new challenges await him.

The tale of Kydd's life continues to grow under author Julian Stockwin's steady hand. This is the seventh book in a series that shows no signs of letting up -- and, of course, we all know peace between England and France will not last.

The only downside to this chapter in Kydd's story is the fate of his good friend, Nicholas Renzi. The two officers are parted for most of the book; when they are reunited, Renzi has fallen sick, turns maudlin and flees England entirely, seeking to make his way as a free colonist in Australia. (Guess whose ship he finds himself aboard. Go on, guess.) Entirely unsuited for the life of a gentleman farmer in the wilderness, this portion of the book would be funny if it weren't so pitiful. Let's hope Renzi turns things around soon.

Also, Stockwin crams a great deal of action and change into this closing portion of the book. It feels rushed, and it's a shame neither Kydd's nor Renzi's adventures in Australia were developed more fully.

book review by
Tom Knapp

18 February 2012

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