The latest Kydd story from the master Napoleonic War naval novelist is another cracking read. The author is now completing two books in the series each year but each new story is as fresh as the first to be released almost 21 years ago – Most Highly Recommended.
NAME: The Baltic Prize FILE: R2613 AUTHOR: Julian Stockwin PUBLISHER: Hodder & Stoughton BINDING: hard back PAGES: 384 PRICE: £18.99 GENRE: Non Fiction SUBJECT: Baltic, Hansa, Sweden, Vasa, King Gustav IV Adolf, Russia, Finland, St Petersburg, Tyger, Victory, Vice Admiral Saumarez, Swedish Navy, Swedish Army, gunboats, Denmark, Sveaborg, Ragervik, Matvig, Bornholt, Gothenberg, Karlskrona, Norway ISBN: 978-1-473-64100-6 IMAGE: B2613.jpg BUYNOW: http://tinyurl.com/yddr9gr6 LINKS: DESCRIPTION: The latest Kydd story from the master Napoleonic War naval novelist is another cracking read. The author is now completing two books in the series each year but each new story is as fresh as the first to be released almost 21 years ago – Most Highly Recommended. Trafalgar, Nelson and Victory are both a shining light of Royal Navy achievement and service to Great Britain, but they also cast a long shadow over the naval events after 1805. Stockwin is now well into the post Trafalgar period with this novel set in the year 1808. Once more he is shining a light onto another important event beyond 1805 with a return of Kydd and Tyger to the Baltic and the Kola above the Arctic Circle. In 1808 Britain was left with a single ally, Sweden and its unpredictable, perhaps mentally unstable, autocratic King. The Baltic Trade has been important to England and the British Isles since the early Medieval period, but now it is critical to British survival. Kydd returns in Tyger to join the British Baltic Fleet which has been sent to control Russia without prompting the Czar to prevent all British trade with Russia, a very delicate and conflicting task. Once more, Stockwin's thorough research during field trips to the locations of his next novel have produced a wealth of information that sits naturally in the gripping tale that is about to unfold. He presents the factual situation entwined with the creative story around his hero. This tale only briefly mentions his great friend Renzi, now the Earl of Farndon, and Kydd's sister, now married to Renzi after a lengthy courtship in previous tales. One question that comes to mind is – will Renzi feature strongly in the next story in the New Year? In reviewing novels, it is important to attempt the walk between telling the reader why this is another exciting tale in a gripping saga, without spoiling the plot. Once more there are all the twists and turns, the ups and down, the highs and lows that fans of the Kydd stories have come to expect, and which make this an absorbing tale that keeps the reader turning pages to the very end without any disappointment. So the most a reviewer should say about the plot and characters is that there are familiar characters that appeared in the first story and followed the hero on from there. These characters reveal more layers in this new tale. There are also new characters that are part of the plot but may yet appear in later tales. The story of military action in the Baltic and above the Arctic Circle has never been told well before in either fact or fiction and this is a puzzle for English language histories and novels because they have long been very important to Britain, woven into the history from before the Dark Ages. British merchants and whalers travelled to these waters and Elizabeth Tudor granted monopolies for trade and whaling. King James VI (James I of England) made it an early priority on the joining of the Crowns of England and Scotland to claim the Spitzbergen as British territory for British whalers. Timber came in huge quantities from Scandinavia and Russia, furs and grain from around the Baltic. Iron ore and other minerals were brought back, traded mainly for British manufactured goods. All of this lucrative and important trade was threatened by Napoleon's attempt to deny the markets to British ships and enforce a customs union, with Russia now on his side and threatening to close the Baltic with the sizeable Russian Fleet based at Kronstad near the Russian city of St Petersburg. Britain responded by sending a substantial fleet into the Baltic, led by HMS Victory. Relations with Sweden were very difficult because the Swedish King was no military strategist and wanted to invade and annex both Denmark and Norway. Swedish society was split between those strongly supporting Sweden and Britain and those who sided with the French. The Swedish Navy was not dependable in loyalty, morale, or equipment. When the Russian Fleet sailed to destroy the Swedish Navy and command the Baltic, it was two venerable British line-of-battle ships that tuned back the mighty Russian force, and the arrival of the full British Fleet with HMS Victory once more in the van persuaded the Russians to hide in port and take down their sails and spars to lie in idleness, leaving command of the Baltic to the British. It is a great story and the victory over the Russians may have been largely bloodless, but of import to equal Trafalgar. Stockwin has cleverly woven fact and fiction. It is a really great tale. Many readers will be unfamiliar with the region and Stockwin has beautifully described the territories and climate. Vardo in North East Norway is largely today as it was in 1808 the most noticeable change being the large golf ball antenna housing on the hills above the town that looks into the Kola and beyond, a vital intelligence gathering system during the Cold War and again important to keep an eye on Russia. The seas around North Cape and down into the Kola are as inhospitable today as in 1808. Giant waves make conditions very dangerous in breaking out into the North Sea from the Barents Sea. The White Sea can be as unfriendly and although this coastline is nominally ice free, making Archangel and Murmansk important Russian northern ports, ice is a constant danger that is today controlled not by 'global warming' but by very large nuclear powered Russian icebreakers and ice-hardened merchant ships that have propellers designed to chop up ice, going ahead or astern. Before the listening station at Vardo, flying at 9,000 ft along the Russian coast, outside Russian limits, the scene below looks very uninviting even in Summer. Air pockets frequently afford an even closer look as the aircraft drops like an express lift, the wings bending upwards as it reaches denser air. For a mariner in a wooden sailing ship, the conditions were harsh and dangerous in the extreme. In the northern Baltic, conditions are little better in a harsh year. Today, ice-hardened ships provide a level of increased safety. Icebreakers in constant operation keep navigation channels open, but the host of Baltic islands are often joined as an ice mass in winter, slowly emerging as the Spring progresses. On the Western shore in the North of Sweden, the land mass is still rising from the pressure of ice during the last Ice Age, leaving jetties stranded, as we hurtle toward the next Ice Age, estimated as being about 1000 years away. To see it today, still gives a taste of what it would have been like for the wooden warships of Kydd's time.