2017 marks another key point in the writing career of international best selling author Julian Stockwin. This is the point where he doubles his output of new instalments in the Kydd and Renzi Saga and continues to write some important stand alone books, using research gained during preparation for his fictional naval heroes, Kydd and Renzi.
Series Review – A Celebration of Julian Stockwin’s Kydd and Renzi Tales
by Ian Johnstone-Bryden
2017 marks another key point in the writing career of international best selling author Julian Stockwin. This is the point where he doubles his output of new instalments in the Kydd and Renzi Saga and continues to write some important stand alone books, using research gained during preparation for his fictional naval heroes, Kydd and Renzi.
It is perhaps appropriate, at the time of writing this Series review, that Captain Kyd RN has just started the sea trials of the new super carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth, squeezing out of the narrow dock entrance into the Firth of Forth and under the famous Forth bridges to reach the open sea, a route as challenging and tortuous as that navigated by Captain Sir Thomas Kydd.
Reviewing a book is relatively straight forward because the review follows the time line of the book. Reviewing the author is more challenging. Should the review be a form of biography of the author, or a celebration of his creative work? In the case of Julian Stockwin, the two are intertwined.
Julian Stockwin was sent to sea at the age of fourteen. That may seem a very young age when, today, many continue on in education into their twenties before they really go forth to discover life and adventure. However, in the time of Nelson, it was common for boys to go to sea on British warships at and below the age of ten, most commonly, the powder monkeys, supplying the guns with powder from the magazines. Those intended for command often began as midshipmen at a similar age, hoping to qualify as lieutenants by their middle teens, with more than a few even achieving command before they were twenty, if only of a recently captured prize to be sailed to the nearest safe port. So we might consider a fourteen year old mature as a boy seaman. Even in Stockwin’s youth, the training was tough and began at a sea-training school, often on hulks from the Era of Nelson. There were many reasons to become a boy seaman and included those from poor backgrounds and more than a few who had an alternative to a young offenders jail. Whatever the background or motive, most gained greatly from the school of hard knocks that they had entered. More than a few would go on in later life to make a fortune in commerce, attributing their great success to their start as boy seamen, continuing their association with the sea by owning very luxurious yachts that were a far cry from the tough conditions in which they had started a life on the oceans.
Stockwin went from sea-training school to the Royal Navy at fifteen, before transferring to the Royal Australian Navy. In the RAN, he served for eight years in the Far East, Antarctic waters and the South Seas. During the Vietnam War he saw service with the Australian carrier Task Force. He then left the RAN with the rank of Petty Officer and began a new career as an educational psychologist, living for some time in Hong Kong. There he was commissioned into the Royal Naval Reserve, was awarded the MBE and retired with the rank of Lieutenant Commander.
He now lives in Devon with his wife Kathy who is a key part of Team Stockwin. Together they have made field trips each year to locations where his next novel is to be set. This level of research is responsible for making Stockwin stories so authentic. Beyond the study of locations, conditions, surviving artefacts and ancient records, Stockwin has surrounded himself with his own growing collection of artefacts. Rope, blocks, cutlass, drum and personal items from the Era of Nelson, provide something to touch and join with as the writing process unfurls.
Just when the work to produce Stockwin’s first book began is probably a mystery to the author as much as to anyone else. Probably, the thought processes that were to develop and lead to the first book began at the age of fourteen, perhaps even earlier. Most authors of fiction are asked by readers and interviewers if the novel is autobiographical. That may be a natural question but all authors contribute something of themselves in everything they write. That is not necessarily autobiographical, but is part of the basis of creativity. Every author, of fiction and non-fiction, draws inspiration from both imagination and experience. The basic elements of a story are built on direct personal experience, but imagination is necessary to pull that together with research into a book that can enfold a reader and make that reader a part of the story. As a result, no one really knows how much of the author is part of any characters, but the high probability is that there is something of the author in every character he creates, blended smoothly with observation and research.
The first novel from Stockwin was to be “Kydd” and it rapidly became an international best seller, as it deserved to be. In the first novel, Stockwin was propelled into the ranks of a handful of great writers of fiction set in the Royal Navy of the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars. As fans looked forward eagerly each year to the next instalment in the unfolding saga, their numbers swelled and new fans read the latest book, then started to collect the earlier books. For new readers, the latest book is always capable of being a stand-alone story that can be enjoyed on its own. However, the earlier books should always be sought and read, followed by a re-reading of the later book. The stories lock together so closely that this adds greatly to the enjoyment of each book.
Of the handful of great story tellers of the genre, Stockwin follows a very interesting course. Forester’s Hornblower tales, Dudley Pope’s Ramage, Alexander Kent’s Bolitho, O-Brien’s Aubrey, share one thing in common, the principle character begins as a Midshipman and works up towards Flag Rank. Stockwin plotted a unique course and it has greatly enriched his stories. Kydd began as a wig maker who was impressed by the dreaded Press Gang, a marine slave taken from his natural element and turned into a seamen. It was a tough, brutal life, that many were not to survive.
In the first book, Kydd meets a mysterious man who is to become his great friend and, after a tortuous romance with Kydd’s sister, his brother in law. This man is known for many of the stories as Renzi and his identity slowly emerges. Again there is great novelty. Although many sailors in the Royal Navy of the time were taken by the Press Gangs there were volunteers. Often they were escaping creditors, the law, or some other painful prospect. Renzi is different in many respects but it emerges that he is honouring a moral debt, owed by the father he has estranged from, and he comes originally from wealth and position. Together, the two heroes endure a roller coaster career where they plunge into one danger after another, surviving to prosper once more and advance, both becoming officers. Where Kydd remains and moves up the ladder to command, to fame, and prize money, Renzi leaves the Navy, but their lives remain closely connected and eventually Renzi is reconciled with his family, accepts the responsibilities of his title and marries Kydd’s sister.
With the following stories, Kydd sails around the world and revisits old sailing grounds. He comes very close to disaster so many times, but, when he pulls himself up, he also advances. In itself, that is a process shared with the heroes of other great authors, but Stockwin succeeds where others have not. His Kydd and Renzi Saga does not end in 1805 at the Battle of Trafalgar. As a result, his stories are free to uncover important parts of Britain’s naval history that shaped the world but are frequently neglected by novelists and historians alike.
In their second outing, “Artemis”, Kydd and Renzi are aboard the crack frigate “Artemis”, sailing for the exotic east but Kydd has to contend with a family matter that threatens to take him away from the life he has come to love. There are all the thrills and spills readers have come to relish and the number of uniquely Stockwin novelties.
After “Artemis”, the next set of adventures in “Seaflower” provide further novelty and excitement. Kydd is shipwrecked, becomes a virtual prisoner in the land of his birth, before being shipped out to the Caribbean. In this instalment of the Kydd and Renzi Saga, Renzi contrives to reunite the old crew in “Seaflower”. This provides a view into how the Royal Navy of the time worked. There was mobility for ordinary seamen, Petty Officers and Officers. Shipmates tried to stay together after one ship, sticking with proven comrades they could depend on. It might have required ingenuity, and sometimes the passing of gold, or some other commodity of value, but it was possible to move around the Fleet.
Although the Royal Navy follows much of the structural process familiar to Kydd, where personnel belong to the Fleet, crew are selected for a ship, serve usually through the commission period for that warship, come ashore to barracks when the ship pays off, to be assigned to another crew in another ship, starting the process all over again. Sailors are therefore very different from soldiers who join a regiment and are then sons or daughters of that organization. If they leave their regiment for some reason, such as to join Staff, they can lose career advancement because their parent regiment forgets them, until they return ‘home’.
Kydd faces challenges with his new ship and his seamanship, tenacity and courage are put to the test. Plenty of excitement and suspense with some great action scenes.
“Mutiny” marks a new change of pace, great danger, but also great opportunity for Kydd and Renzi. In this gripping yarn they are exposed to the complex dangers of a great mutiny. The Royal Navy faced a number of challenges at the time. It was not possible to rely on volunteers to man the King’s Ships. In peacetime, politicians disgracefully neglected the British military as they do to this day. Then, another nation, or some despot, threatened Britain and its interests. At this point the politicians expected the military to pull the chestnuts out of the fire. Inadequate numbers of men, missing equipment, ships in need of refit, but once more the military rose magnificently to the task that resulted from politicians’ gross neglect. Politicians took this for granted, as did some senior commanders.
Ships were often long overdue for refit and only the hard work of crews kept them operational. The numbers of seamen were made up by the press gangs that roamed inland from the ports. Kydd himself had been the victim of one such abduction. Pressed men were frequently completely without experience of the sea, of ships, of fighting. They had to learn fast in a brutal world were the sea, faulty equipment, driven men all too often resulted in disabling injury or death. That was bad enough, but it was compounded by widespread corruption that saw unfit food being supplied to the ships. As many crewmen were not there voluntarily, crews were often forced to live in the ships without shore leave where some of them might take the opportunity and desert.
The result was that there were great mutiny’s at Spithead and the Nore. This shook the Admiralty and the politicians because France was already in the turmoil of rebellion and the fear was that this could spread to Britain. Mutiny was rebellion, but when the triggers were genuinely bad treatment, there was a level of justification. The response was brutal rather than sensitive and eventually mutineers were flogged and hanged. Into this turbulent and dangerous world our heroes are cast. They are faced with a terrible choice of abandoning their friends or joining the rebellion. Whichever choice the prospects look bleak. Another enthralling story that keeps the reader turning the pages.
“Quarterdeck” marks the first great life-changing advance for Kydd. He is promoted acting lieutenant, facing a major set of challenges. Not only must he learn his trade but he must become a gentleman. This is still a challenge for a sailor recognized by promotion to Commission, but the gulf was all the greater in the reign of George III. The Royal Navy was always prepared to promote on merit rather than position, but officers who came aft from the mast were a very small proportion of the Commissioned brotherhood.
Most officers joined as Midshipman, often at a very young age and usually by plea or recommendation to a captain. Not all were from wealthy families, but even those who were not usually came from families on the edge of wealth. It was a very different society from that which usually provided the seamen. This is one of the very interesting aspects of Stockwin’s concept for the Kydd and Renzi Saga because Renzi is from the part of society that would normally provide officers. His background is still surrounded in mystery at this part of the saga but the edges are being lifted and Kydd has a very useful friend to give him a steer to his new position.
This story is set against the turmoil of North America with the birth of the United States and the loyalists who have moved North to Canada. A background that promises great action against the French, against hurricanes. All this in the confines of an old 64-gun ship.
“Tenacious” sees Kydd enjoying the favour and recognition of his fellow officers in Halifax. “Tenacious” is then summonsed to joint a task force led by Nelson, changing North America for the Mediterranean. The French Revolution is evolving into the Empire. Intelligence indicates that Bonaparte’s fleet is about to set the Mediterranean ablaze and Nelson’s mission is to locate the French fleet and deal with it. Kydd is fired with ambition and it is a pivotal moment for him as he advances and friendships are tested.
“Command” takes Kydd on to the life-changing moment of command. An even greater step than his advance to a commission. The captain is alone. His is the ultimate responsibility afloat. Stockwin has chosen an interesting vessel for Kydd’s first command. “Teazer” is a little brig sloop with a deserted deck, empty gun ports, waiting to have life breathed into her. Kydd’s great opportunity is soured by the unpleasant outbreak of peace. His new ship is out of commission and he is cast ashore on half pay. This was a fate awaiting every young commander, a fate that only thinned away when the commander reached the heady heights of Post Captain.
For Kydd, the opportunity is to captain a merchant ship, a convict transport sailing to New South Wales. This is a very interesting change of pace which still contains challenge, suspense and action. It provides a new canvas for Stockwin and it covers part of life for the Royal Navy’s people that rarely receives any exposure. Once more, thorough research and attention to detail brings a neglected part of history to life and enriches the characters of Kydd and Renzi.
“The Admiral’s Daughter” is a critical point in Kydd’s career. He is now a celebrated captain, but society is not entirely comfortable with the concept of a press ganged seaman rising to Commission and then to command. Kydd is also not entirely comfortable with high society and is torn between loves. As he struggles to find himself, he also has to battle the smugglers and privateers who had long been endemic to the South West. Stockwin has woven an exciting and most convincing tale that explores the social challenges of promotion from before the mast. The Royal Navy has always promoted on merit and never been afraid to take a Non-Commissioned Officer up and into the Wardroom. However, the newly commissioned officer has to make many adjustments to his new position aboard ship and ashore.
“Treachery” (US title “The Privateer’s Revenge”) takes Kydd to one of his lowest points. After the disastrous personal relationships in “The Admiral’s Daughter”, Kydd faces the vengeance of the Admiral and the French. This is another Stockwin dip into uncharted waters. Historians have tended to concentrate on the great land battles, the major naval actions up to Trafalgar, and the British naval blockade of French ports. They have largely ignored the little bits of Britain just off the French coast, the Channel Islands. It is unclear why Napoleon never attempted to seize these islands which provided intelligence and a base for British corsairs. Stockwin has produced some very interesting insights in the life and times of these islands as the back drop to this yarn. Against this scene, Kydd is battling on all fronts. He seems doomed and he has a mountain or two to claw his way up to win back glory and advancement.
“Invasion” sees Napoleon threatening invasion of Britain. Only the Royal Navy stands against the French. Stockwin has provided a colourful glimpse of life in the South West of the 18th and early 19th Centuries. Kydd is reunited with “Teazer” and Stockwin is able to indulge his interest in technology. One of the very interesting aspects of his novels is that he manages to include at least one exposure of novel technology, in this case Fulton’s submarine. This is very appropriate because it recognises the reality of Nelson’s Navy. Today, we can look back to the romantic sailing ships in an age of simplicity, almost mere museum items. Compared to space craft and electronics in a whirlwind environment that may seem reasonable in the same way it will be for future generations looking back at silicon chips and primitive rocket craft. However, the wooden warship was once the pinnacle of advanced technology and all aboard were technologists. They had to be because, miles for a friendly port, everyone from the newest impressed seaman to the captain had to become proficient in a host of technical skills to keep their wooden world afloat and functioning.
This story is not only an important stage in the career of Kydd and his friends and comrades. It is also an important stage for Stockwin. Originally he had envisioned a series of eleven books. That is in itself ambitious because many authors who write popular series become stale or bored with their subject before then. Stockwin found himself enjoying the saga he had created. With each new story, he was building a mass of material that could not be used in that story, but opened new possibilities for future tales. Rather than coming towards the end of the saga, Stockwin realised that he was not even half way through and he was also considering possibilities for stand-alone books to make use of material and inspiration that did not fit into the Kydd and Renzi Saga. This touches upon the mysteries of writing. The best story tellers are the ones who become part of the world of the story and part of the audience. That dual identity keeps the writing fresh, vivid and original.
“Victory” presented not only a major set of challenges and great opportunity for Kydd, but also for Stockwin. The Royal Navy had many gifted Admirals at the time, but Nelson was in a class of his own. He won a series of great victories before the Battle of Trafalgar and he overcame his own challenges of life at sea, he was always susceptible to sea sickness, and the loss of an eye and an arm, injuries that would have seen many a victim placed on the beach, no more to sail. By the time of Trafalgar, he was already a legend and even his treatment of his wife and his taking a mistress were largely accepted by a British society that would normally find it unacceptable. The true story of Trafalgar could not have been bettered by the most creative work of fiction. Of course the true story was also enhanced and became a glorious mix of myth and fable. For the young commander to to die in the arms of his old friend and Flag Captain at the moment of his greatest triumph on a ship most appropriately named HMS Victory is a plot line every novelist would kill for. However, it left a huge void and the great achievements of the Royal Navy and its commanders after 1805 failed to attract attention and break through the glass ceiling that is ‘Nelson the Legend.’
The writer of naval fiction faces two challenges in writing a gripping series of stories around a hero. Somehow he must get his hero into the Battle of Trafalgar but that presents a difficulty. Naval heroes of fiction set in the period are basically frigate captains, young, dashing, independent, and owing more than a little to the true exploits of Thomas Cochrane who made such a nuisance of himself to the French he came to the attention of Napoleon who dubbed him “The Sea Wolf”. That’s the rub because Trafalgar is a classic large fleet engagement, two lines of the greatest warships trying to gain wind advantage and rake the other’s ‘T’. The Captains of line of battle ships may have once been frigate captains but they have moved into a different world of chains of command, little scope for individuality and ship that is so much larger, requiring different skills that have been learned working up the list of ships to the First Rates. Stockwin made the Battle work for Kydd by placing his frigate in the screen of reconnaissance and communications vessels that helped get their line of battleships into a winning position and dealt with enemy frigates attempting to do the same job for their fleet.
The other challenge for the author is what to do after Trafalgar. The inclination is to treat the Battle as the apex of the career of the hero and either stop writing, or to write a new book that moves back to some point before Trafalgar. Stockwin had already worked out where to head, realizing the huge potential beyond Trafalgar and into the Dash for Empire.
“Conquest” marks the start of The Dash For Empire that was made possible by the great victory at Trafalgar. From the Elizabethan period, English traders had taken huge risks to voyage to the far corners of the World in search of profit. This they did at their own risk and expense. They were also joined by English corsairs from the coast of Devon and Cornwall who frequently sailed in company with French Huguenot corsairs, preying on the Spanish gold ships. Scottish corsairs also operated with the French Protestants and pioneered the crossing of the Atlantic to take the Spanish ships before they sailed for Europe, rather than lie in wait in the waters around the Azores. Soon, English corsairs were undertaking great voyages into the Pacific and back to England. However, this expansion was not driven by English territorial ambitions or zeal to spread Christianity and England lacked the navy and army to support its traders. That began to change progressively from the reign of James Stuart. By the time of George I, British colonies were established around the world and demanding protection from the Royal Navy, with a call for soldiers to be sent out to the colonies. As the colonials were traders and exploiters, they wanted this support at no cost to themselves and this eventually led the colonists along the New England coast to rise up against rule from London. After Trafalgar, Britain could start to expand its surviving colonies and gradually link them together. In this Kydd yarn, the backdrop is the campaign to take Cape Colony from the Dutch, securing the route to India and Australia. Here, Kydd is able to demonstrate his abilities on land and sea. Stockwin relishes the freedom beyond Trafalgar and this is the first of the second wind for his Kydd and Renzi Saga.
“Betrayal” is a natural twin for “Conquest”. Where the expedition to take Cape Colony was a project directed by politicians and enacted by the Admiralty, “Betrayal” was an expedition carried on by a senior commander in the field on his own initiative. The two approaches are how the British Empire came into being and were a consequence of the communications of the time. From Cape Town to Portsmouth or London might normally be a voyage of weeks for a sailing ship, events could conspire to make the voyage a matter of months or even terminate it before it could be completed. Storms, piracy, enemy naval action, mutiny or sinking were frequent factors. The return voyage for surviving ships would be as eventful. That meant that a commander on a distant station might see something that required immediate action but formal permission might take many months. That resulted in commanders taking significant actions without any direct authority, including warfare against an enemy who had signed a peace treaty, but where news of that had yet to reach the commander. The commander risked being court martialed in the future because the politicians or the Admiralty took a different view with the benefit of hindsight. That can be difficult to understand in an age of computers and satellites combining to produce instant and high granularity command and control capabilities. Today, it is possible for a Prime Minister, or President, together with a meeting of advisors and senior commanders to talk directly to a junior soldier on the other side of the world. It is even possible for the meeting to be a virtual meeting spread across a number of locations and including allies.
This new story is set against the expedition led by Popham from Cape Town to Buenos Aires. It was the point where the old empire of Spain was finally separating from Spanish rule and new countries were being created. Kydd has another opportunity to fight on land and afloat. An action packed story that discloses the treachery and confusion that were a large part of the South American colonies.
“Caribbee” is a return to the Caribbean for Kydd, more than a decade after he and Renzi were there before the mast. This time it is as Post-captain of the 32-gun frigate L’Aurore, a storied hero of Trafalgar. Once more a story of highs and lows as our heroes face familiar threats as they attempt to protect the vital British sugar trade. This is a dangerous game of espionage, seamanship and exciting action. This story exposes more of Renzi’s secrets.
“Pasha” is another benefit of working past Trafalgar. Kydd is recalled from the Caribbean and into the dangers and controversy of Commodore Popham’s ill-fated expedition to South America. Here are many in politics and the Admiralty sharpening their axes and looking beyond Popham for heads. Kydd is fortunate to receive orders for the Dardanelles where he will coincide with his great friend Renzi in his new role as a diplomat. This is another part of Napoleonic history that has received little attention. Napoleon may no longer have a Fleet to contend with the Royal Navy in great engagements, but he can still intrigue on land and attempt to find ways of expanding to bypass the British Fleet. His goal is to detach the British from India by land and for that he needs a route through Turkey. Stockwin has painted a convincing picture of life and conditions in the Dardanelles and offers the cocktail of set back, triumph, and suspense that are a characteristic of his Kydd and Renzi Saga.
“Tyger” sees Sir Thomas Kydd being penalized by powerful enemies at the Admiralty and rising to and above the challenge. His part in the doomed occupation of Buenos Aires and support for Popham has placed him at odds both with politicians and the Admiralty. Expecting him to fail and be disgraced, he is given a poisonous command, a recently mutinied ship. He is sent to the Baltic escorting the annual trading convoy and is soon entangled in Napoleon’s invasion of Prussia. This is yet another very important part of the Napoleonic Wars to have largely escaped the attention of historians, even though it led to the ultimate defeat of Napoleon at Waterloo. Kydd is placed in a position where he could either return once more a hero, or face court martial. He has to win over a still mutinous crew, fight the French in what seems an unequal battle at sea, participate in an evacuation of troops from beaches under the guns of a powerful enemy, play a part in the return of Monarchy to France and make it home in one piece. Much novelty and suspense in another ripping yarn.
“Inferno” is set in 1807, telling the story of the British invasion of neutral Denmark. This very important and controversial action has largely escaped the attention of historians in English-speaking history books. Stockwin sets to with relish, Kydd fighting from deck and land, with Renzi charged with the most sensitive of diplomatic missions. Britain did not want to engage Denmark in war, but the prospect of the French seizing the Danish warships and closing the Baltic to British trade was so severe that any means necessary would be deployed. The diplomatic mission attempted to persuade the Danish to work with Britain, but the naval and land forces waited to take action if diplomacy failed. In many ways, this was similar to the situation faced by Churchill after the Fall of France. He hoped the French warships in North Africa would surrender to Britain to avoid them falling into German hands, but he could not afford to see those warships under a German flag. The reluctant but decisive action was to open fire on recent allies. In this story there is terrific suspense and some very descriptive actions on land and water.
“Persephone” More exciting ups and downs than a white knuckle Roller Coaster ride. – Another cracking instalment in the Kydd and Renzi Saga from international best selling author Julian Stockwin – Most Highly Recommended.
This is an occasion of doubles. This exciting new story features the character Persephone Lockwood in the second book to be titled for her, her first outing being as “The Admiral's Daughter”. This publication also marks a change of pace with Julian Stockwin writing two books for release on 2017, the second instalment in the saga to be published later this year. “Persephone” is the 18th instalment in the Kydd and Renzi Saga and it is as fresh and enchanting as the first instalment “Kydd” all those years ago. As the saga has unfolded with each new book, it has exposed new layers to each of the characters. Over the years they have deepened and grown, as has the readership. This reviewer has reviewed each of the books and grown to look forward to the next story as keenly as any fan. From this experience, the reviewer would urge any new reader to enjoy this book, but then go out and buy all the previous books in the series. Each new story can stand on its own, but the reading of the complete series adds to the enjoyment and understanding as it brings the characters into three dimensions in a way that a single book cannot manage. The challenge for a reviewer is to say enough about the new book that the review fairly reveals the quality of the author's work, but without spoiling the readers' enjoyment in discovering how the twists and turns, the range of emotions and the suspense and excitement all come together to make a cracking good yarn. All established readers of the stories will find many characters that they have come to enjoy from earlier books. There are new characters, heroes and villains, but above all there are interesting pieces of information that are important elements of history that have somehow escaped most historians. The author displays his knowledge and love of the sea and ships and a great attention to research and detail that is crafted into the tale as natural components. The book is written to entertain, but also it educates with some fascinating information and insights. In fairness to the other great writers of Napoleonic War naval fiction, writing past Trafalgar is a major challenge because it was such an iconic part of British history and integral to the myth and legend of its great hero Nelson. It is not only writers of fiction who have faced this challenge, and been defeated, but also the body of historians. This is a great shame because naval warfare did not end at Trafalgar. True, the British Fleet had comprehensively vanquished the combined fleets of France and Spain. Those navies, individually or in concert would never be able to again confront the Royal Navy. It was not just an outstanding naval victory for the British, but it reinforced the naval superiority established in the Seven Years War a half century earlier when the Royal Navy dominated the waves. For historians, not much happened at sea after Trafalgar until the arms race between Britain and Germany at the start of the Twentieth Century, an apparent century of peace bought by Nelson and his Band of Brothers. The reality was very different. The Dash For Empire was only possible because the Royal Navy had won naval superiority and maintained it. There were also many more important naval events before the final defeat of Napoleon at Waterloo. Stockwin has done a great service by meeting and winning the challenge of Trafalgar and continuing the story of Kydd and his great friend Renzi beyond 1805. In “Tyger”, he wove in the story of the heroic fight of Generalleutnant Graf von Hohenlau and his Prussian Division against French Divisions commanded in the field personally by Napoleon. The Prussian's Russian allies broke and ran, allowing the French to encircle the Prussians. That did not deter von Hohenlau who broke through the encirclement and fought his way to the Baltic coast. He then sent a messenger to the Royal Navy escort commander with the annual British Baltic trading convoy and asked for help in evacuating his troops off the beaches. Britain and Prussia were not allies but the British commander agreed to help and all but a small gallant rearguard protecting the evacuation were lifted off the beaches and carried the Prussians to their temporary capital. Although Prussia was then defeated by the French, the Prussians rose at the first opportunity and allied themselves to Britain. That might never have happened had not von Hohenlau been helped by the Royal Navy. It meant that their Prussian allies rode to the aid of the British at a critical point in the Battle of Waterloo, playing a decisive part in the ultimate defeat of Napoleon.
In this new tale, Stockwin has provided so much in one book. He has provided an absorbing view of Society and politics in Britain at the time and he has taken the story of what happened after the British attack on neutral Denmark with the changes in Iceland’s fortunes all of that being part of the background canvas to the drama of Kydd’s pursuit of Persephone Lockwood. Those who have read “The Admiral’s Daughter” will remember that the earlier pursuit of Persephone did not go well for Kydd romantically, although his efforts to claw back from disaster did in fact help his naval career forward. Did this second pursuit succeed? Well you will only know by rushing out and buying this fantastic new tale. It will be a very enjoyable experience.
Something to look forward to. “The Baltic Prize” is only a few weeks away from release, the next installment in the Kydd and Renzi Saga and the second for 2017!!
1808. Parted from his new bride, Captain Sir Thomas Kydd is called away to join the Northern Expedition to Sweden, now Britain’s only ally in the Baltic. Following the sudden declaration of war by Russia and with the consequent threat of the czar’s great fleet in St Petersburg, the expedition must defend Britain’s dearly-won freedom in the those waters.
However Kydd finds his popular fame as a frigate captain is a poisoned chalice; in the face of jealousy and envy from his fellow captains, the distrust of the commander-in-chief and the betrayal of friendship by a former brother-in-arms now made his subordinate, can he redeem his reputation?
In an entirely hostile sea Tyger ranges from the frozen north to the deadly confines of the Danish Sound – and plays a pivotal role in the situation ensuing after the czar’s sudden attack on Finland. This climaxes in the first clash of fleets between Great Britain and Russia in history. To the victor will be the prize of the Baltic!
Outside the Kydd and Renzi Saga series, Stockwin has written a number of stand-alone books. These may be rather different from his naval fiction, but they are related. Stockwin’s Maritime Miscellany was an obvious stand-alone that used information collected as part of the research for the Kydd and Renzi tales. It is also a very valuable companion because, although the Kydd and Renzi books include glossaries and other helpful supportive information, the Maritime Miscellany provides a wonderful collection of material maritime that helps the reader of Kydd and Renzi yarns to develop an understanding of the backgrounds to the stories.
“The Silk Tree” appears to be completely unrelated to the Kydd and Renzi Saga, but it demonstrates the depth of research that Stockwin follows in preparation for writing each new instalment of the Saga. In researching for “Pasha”, Team Stockwin made a field trip to Istanbul and met some very interesting people who provided background information about the area and its history, including the story of how the silk worm arrived in Europe. Stockwin has used this information to write an enchanting story of China, the silk trade, and the breaking of the Chinese silk monopoly. It is a great read and a fascinating insight into one of the versions of how silk came to be made in Europe.
“The Powder of Death” is another stand-alone story that is related to the Kydd and Renzi tales and is part of the background research that makes the series such an outstanding success. Gunpowder was fundamental to the naval battles of Nelson’s day. It moved warships from vessels that were similar to trading ships, and used to carry soldiers to fight other soldiers on similar ships, to platforms for artillery that could target any other vessel and in turn required technological development to create a uniquely military vessel that could move the artillery to anywhere in the world and in a very wide range of conditions. Exactly how gun powder arrived in Europe has always been debated and the probability of ever finding definitive answers is pretty remote, but Stockwin has taken one of the most likely versions and dramatised it to produce a thrilling story of suspense and drama. The characters have depth, the technology is eloquently described and the society of the time is brought to life. Another great story from a master story teller.