Continuing the rousing adventures of Thomas Kydd, now an officer in the British Royal Navy, as he battles ships at sea, snobbery at home and the sense that he has serious personal shortcoming.
It’s 1798, a time of relative geopolitical calmness, though in France, Napoleon is starting to breathe fire. Tom’s commission is freshly minted. As its fifth—and most junior—lieutenant, he steps aboard the man-of-war Tenacious, to be met by the kind of implacable hostility for which he was totally unprepared. “ ‘Don’t sit,’ ” Captain Houghton tells him, minutes after reporting, adding that he’s to be replaced, adding that under his command, Tenacious will have only “officers of breeding.” Replacing Tom on short notice proves impossible, and, emotionally off-balance, he joins the ship’s company after all. From his native Guildford, where he made wigs, to neophyte sailor, to tested, decorated veteran, to commissioned officer as the result of his heroism in battle, Tom’s come a long way fast. As a fighting seaman, he knows his worth. In the wardroom, though, where the talk is likely to center on country estates, riding with hounds and the affairs of cuckolding duchesses, his fellow officers can easily make him feel alienated, an amateur gentleman. Soon enough, however, opportunities occur in which his quick understanding, natural tact and coolness under pressure enable him to shine. Dispatched to the fledgling U.S. Navy as an observer, he proves significantly useful to both services and, as a result, makes friends in high places. Even more important, he begins the process of befriending himself.
Stockwin (Mutiny, 2004, etc.), a career navy man, writes of the nautical life with vivid authority. Is the Kydd series the equal of Patrick O’Brian’s much praised Aubrey/Maturin series? Not quite, but close.