Julian Stockwin,
Kydd #2: Artemis
(Scribner, 2001; McBooks, 2008)

Tom Kydd, the hero of Julian Stockwin's first novel Kydd, has a very busy time of it in Stockwin's second outing, Artemis.

The young former wig-maker, who was pressed by the British navy and then found his true calling at sea, has moved on from his first ship, the bulky and ungraceful Duke William, and is now sailing as an able seaman aboard the fighting frigate Artemis. And, while William had tedious duty as a blockade ship off the coast of France, Artemis has places to go and things to do.

The book begins with a major battle with a French frigate, leads into an unhappy period ashore in England, then sets sail for the Far East, making port in India and China, before clearing the Philippines, making an extended stop on an uncharted and somewhat hostile Pacific island on the far side of the world and rounding Cape Horn in the worst of weather. There are cannibals to contend with, a shipboard plague, desertion, science and even a little romance before it all comes to a crashing end.

The conclusion of Artemis leaves you with no doubt a sequel is on its way.

There are flaws, some of which are continued from Kydd. Character development is weak -- it's hard to pin down Kydd, for instance, who is alternatively overawed and supremely confident, kind-hearted and needlessly brusque. His best friend, the intellectual Renzi, strives too hard to be a young Stephen Maturin from Patrick's O'Brian's much-celebrated Aubrey series, but Renzi's facade is brittle and hard to swallow. And, again, Kydd proves to be just too darn good at everything he tries; his advancement in skill and rank is too swift by far, and I regret the lost opportunity for Stockwin to tell us more stories about a simple sailor.

If anything, Artemis is too action-packed. It's a little hard to believe how much this little ship and its crew go through in a relatively short span. Stockwin might have worked a little more detail into his story and expanded the events of this book into two.

That said, I enjoyed the story quite well -- Stockwin is a gifted storyteller who obviously loves his subject and has a full grasp of its intricacies -- and I breezed through it with high hopes for the sequel already waiting on my shelf. This series shows real promise, and I am happy to go along for the ride.

[ visit the author's website ]

review by
Tom Knapp

6 February 2010

Agree? Disagree?
Send us your opinions!

what's new