on 11 October 2012
I'll admit from the beginning that, despite this being the 13th Kydd novel, it is only the second that I've read, though I now realise that they are actually quite readable as standalone novels if the reader wishes.
I've recently been heavily devoted to reading ancient through medieval fiction, but I opened 'Betrayal' with enthusiasm. It has been a long time since I read Napoleonic era novels, but I was, to some extent, weaned on Forrester, Dudley Pope, and Alexander Kent. Having now read two of the Kydd novels I have confirmed for myself that Stockwin's protagonist is easily the match for Bolitho, Hornblower or Ramage.
I won't go too much into the specific plot of the book, as usual, to avoid spoilers, but the action begins in Africa, around Cape Town and with a magnificent opening chapter that evokes all the mystery and dangers of darkest Africa, the dangers of the French enemy, and the ingenuity and sheer daring of Kydd and his men. It also nicely introduces (or reintroduces) the main characters for those of us who have had time out from the series. Looking at a long period of excruciating boredom (and more importantly reduced chance of glory or advancement) patrolling the secure cape, Kydd's commander, Popham, sets off on an unauthorized, outrageous and downright dangerous plan to try and subvert Spanish control of South America. Kydd, somewhat reluctantly agrees to join and is dragged into a little known action in history of which I had never even previously heard (thanks, Mr Stockwin, as I learned something new and particulary fascinating here.)
The action picks up very quickly and then sails along (pun intended) throughout the book. Checking the dust jacket I read of Stockwin's history in the navy and realised whence one of the two things that impressed me most came. The author's clearly first-hand and near-encyclopedic knowledge of all things ships and sailing combined with his obvious love of the period show through at every moment in the book without fail, bringing a depth of detail that adds to the read rather than stalling it. The other thing that impressed me most, even above the level of research that clearly went in, was the authentic feel just to the social aspect of the story. The speech is at once familiar and easy to read, and yet seems true to period and deeply atmospheric. The interaction between characters, particularly those of different classes or nationalities is wonderful.
But as in many good long-running series, one other thing worth mentioning is the clear growth of the characters and the ties that bind them together. As I said, I've only read one other Kydd novel before, and that was around six books ago. The result is that I could easily see how much Kydd has grown and changed over the books, while retainging those parts that make him the character people loved from the start. In addition the bond between he and Renzi is a joy to read.
In all, this was an excellent read as a standalone, so I can imagine that series devotees will love it. Stockwin stands up there with the best of Napoleonic and I wouldn't hesitate to recommend it to anyone.
Well done, Julian. Now I must go back and fill in the blanks.
on 10 October 2012
The year is 1806 and Captain Kydd was just helped capture and defend the Dutch colony of Cape Town (chronicled in Conquest). With the French driven from the seas, the only thing Kydd can look forward to is protecting trade and being forgotten by the Admiralty on a far flung corner of Empire.
Kydd's commanding officer, Admiral Popham has other ideas though. With the forces used to capture Cape Town at his disposal, he proposes an assault on the undefended Spanish possessions in South America. Winning over Kydd to his side, Popham believes that all the English have to do is land on the mainland, capture Buenos Aires and the locals will rise up and throw off the yoke of Spanish rule but can a few hundred British soldiers and sailors really capture the greatest prize of Empire?
As the fleet sets sail, Kydd struggles with the decision to abandon his station and follow a man whose motives seems to become more suspect and actions become more underhand the closer they get to their destination.
As the British task force lands on the Spanish Mainland they must deal with the local Spanish troops as well as belligerent locals but the prize is so great that nothing will stop them in their quest.
With no British warships able to navigate the River Plate, Kydd is tasked with with defending the British force with whatever crafts and men he can muster and as the enemy draw closer, Kydd finds himself increasingly under pressure to hold them back. Kydd knows that if they can't not hold on until reinforcements arrive then they could lose everything they have gained and from being Heroes of Empire they could end up facing a court martial for disobeying orders. Such are the fine margins of high command.
I have been a fan of Julian Stockwin's books since `Kydd' was released in 2001 but as with any long running series I have found myself struggling to enjoy the last couple of books. In a similar vein to the Sharpe novels you sort of feel that you have read the book before and feel a bit stale. Well I'm happy to report that Betrayal is a real return to form.
This is a cracking story and I think using a little known episode of the Napoleonic wars gives it freshness that has been missing from the last couple of books. One of the joys of the whole series has been seeing Kydd grow from a pressed landman into a full post-Captain and learning the ropes of command as he goes along. In Betrayal he really comes into his own as he commands the ad-hoc naval forces and is tasked with opening up Buenos Aires to trade.
Stockwin captures the dilemmas of men in high command in the age of the sail, months away from political and military chiefs they must make decisions on the spur of the moment that could bring greater glory to the Empire or just as easily see them disgraced and dismissed from service.
I raced though this book and as always Stockwin's writing style is easy to read and has a nice pace to the story and in all Stockwin's books the naval details are spot on without being over technical thus slowing the story down. This is a very good book and I highly recommend!
on 11 October 2012
13 may be unlucky for some, but Julian Stockwin's latest novel in the Kydd series, Betrayal, excels in the faction genre and places him without doubt in the top league of writers whose stories are based, both on the sea and land, during the Napoleonic Wars.
He cleverly weaves Kydd into the real stories and action of the day and the auspicious attempt to take Buenos Aries. Stockwin's in-depth research on this relatively unknown action has allowed him to place Kydd and Renzi into the heart of the story and he cleverly linked Commodore Popham, with whom Kydd had dealings with in Invasion, the commander of the sea force, with Kydd and his beloved frigate HMS L'Auore.
The operation described in such gripping detail in the book is one of the great "What ifs" of the empire building Britain undertook in the early 1800's. If London had be more supportive, the logistics had been better thought through, the bayonets on the ground greater in number then the northern part of modern Argentina and the southern part of Uruguay could well have been coloured pink the Victorian Atlases.
Poor intelligence at the most critical stage allowed the Spanish to turn around what had be a major embarrassment into a complete victory and as Julian explains not just the once but twice!
The Commanders of the operation where Popham for the Navy and Beresford for the Army, both competent commanders in their own right. I will let Kydd's actions in the book tell the story, but Kydd as usual with the support of his colleagues, both officers and seamen, redeem themselves and uphold that old adage "Honour", their actions playing a decisive role in the overall operation.
A great true story, well researched and written, which brings our two great friends to the brink of a major bust up over differing beliefs. However, their deep friendship prevails and Kydd is snatched from the jaws of incarceration and despair. A great read and I would highly recommend it!
on 17 October 2012
Julian Stockwin's latest Kydd Sea Adventure, BETRAYAL, has been favorably compared with C. S. Forester's Horatio Hornblower novels (Publisher's Weekly), a fitting position in the naval fiction genre, to be sure. But, like Forester, Alexander Kent, David Donachie and Patrick O'Brian, Stockwin has carved his own unique place in nautical literature over the past twelve years. Contemporary readers around the world enjoy going down to the sea in ships with this talented author, waiting eagerly for each succeeding novel in the Kydd series. BETRAYAL is the thirteenth and the finest in the Kydd saga to date. Thomas Kydd and Nicholas Renzi find themselves in grave danger along the South American coast with Commodore Sir Home Popham. Stockwin writes fiction wrapped in meticulously detailed and authentic British naval history and seamanship, which once again puts readers smack on the quarterdeck, as salt air and powder smoke drift off the pages. This is a book not to be missed by anyone who seeks action at sea during the Age of Sail.
on 15 December 2012
Betrayal, 13th in the Kydd series and not at all an unlucky number and, like the previous 12, a stand alone read. I read this in hard cover format and while I do love my Kindle proper and kindle app on the iPad, it really was a delight to get back to print and doubly so when you know you are in for a great read...
Stockwin doesn't disappoint. He is not troubled by the problem some other authors suffer from in writing a series with continuing characters and in trying to keep them engaged in interesting story lines that will draw the reader in to the world the characters inhabit. Writing 'historical fiction' and drawing on real events to give us a lesson in British history. It is a history, that we may not always be proud of, but what there can be no doubt of, is that there were men of valour and bravery who went out, on behalf of their country and King, and did what was needed of them to protect and extend the 'empire' and who fitted into their time perfectly.
Kydd and the crew of HMS L'Aurore, a thirty two gun Frigate were one such band of men, men who were fiercely loyal to their Captain, their ship, their shipmates and their Country and when called upon to do their duty, would do so with guts and dorryng do....
Having won the battle to wrest the Cape from the Dutch as told in Conquest Kydd, along with the rest of the fleet and indeed the Army, find themselves in a bit of a hiatus with little to do when Commodore Popham puts to him a plan to sail to the South American continent and take the Spanish colonies from Spain. There are no orders for this and if they embark on the mission they could face a Courts Martial for leaving their post, but, if they do and they can pull it off, the riches to be gained for the country which is still reeling from the cost of the Napoleonic wars, could save them and the country. Can it be done or does the title of the book suggest failure....? Do you know your history, I had no idea that we had invaded the Southern American countries , but we did and not just once, and this is the wonderful thing about Mr Stockwin, he takes our history and gives it back to us in almost, I am sure, as dramatic a fashion as it occurred at the time. People coming up with fantastical ideas, knowing that they are going to be outnumbered and with no supply lines for material, food or reserve forces, and then leap across the world in sailing ships to put the plan into action.
This was another page turner from a Sailor who knows his craft both in terms of Sailing ships of old and in storytelling. His introduction of characters both old and new is eloquent and enlightening, you end up checking wikipedia and other sources, not to catch him out but because he, through his story telling just ends up making you want to know more about those times, and the people who forged our history for good or for bad it is our history and brought to us in a most enjoyable way.
Editing for Kindle: Read in Hardback
Reading Enjoyment: 5 out of 5
Plot: 5 out of 5
Overall Rating: 5 out of 5
No of Pages: 365 plus 2 page Glossary*
* I note in the hardback that the Glossary is at the end of the book, which I fully understand, in print, is where it normally is, BUT, as I am forever pointing out if this is in the same place on the Kindle edition - NOT GOOD. It should be at the front of the Kindle edition for the simple reason of, if the reader is reading it and refers to the glossary at any time the device will always revert to the Glossary if the reader loses his/her place and utilises the 'go to last page read' option to find where they left off. Irritation beyond belief then kicks in for the reader!
You can connect with Mr Stockwin at: [...] and on twitter @julianstockwin
on 8 December 2012
As I mentioned in my review of David Wesley Hill's At Drake's Command, I have a soft spot for nautical adventure tales as they form some of my earliest childhood memories with my dad. Julian Stockwin's Betrayal is another one such, a rousing tale of the high seas and the battle for Buenos Aires in 1806; it fits right in with the tales my dad read to me. Betrayal is the thirteenth tale in Stockwin's series about Thomas Kydd, intrepid sailor and courageous and well-loved leader of his men. Despite of this, it was easily accessible to a reader newly come to this series and Stockwin manages to refer to earlier entries in the series without making the reader feel as if they've missed out on critical information for this story.
Central to the story is Captain Thomas Kydd, captain of the frigate L'Aurore. At the beginning of the book we find him stationed at the Cape of Good Hope, newly conquered by the British and life is settling down to a rather sedate routine. He's introduced as an honourable man, but an ambitious one and languishing in port without the chance to gain distinction for himself and thus advance his career is making him restless. So when his commander, Commodore Popham, comes to him with a bold and not quite legal plan to win themselves glory and treasure and a way out of being stationed at the Cape, it's easy to see why he agrees to take part. While Kydd tries to belay his conscience and ignore any implications that Popham's motives might be anything but honourable, Stockwin slowly has him realise that perhaps Popham isn't everything Kydd believes him to be. This is partly due to Popham's own behaviour and the warnings given by Kydd's best friend and secretary Renzi, but also due to Kydd's disillusion when the invasion goes sour and he loses more and more good men needlessly.
Kydd's relationship with Renzi and the rest of his men was wonderfully portrayed and in fact, the entire portrayal of the sailors was amazingly well done, which shouldn't be surprising given Stockwin's own distinguished career in the Navy. I loved the sailor's salty language and the dialogues peppered with nautical terms, some of which were explained in a glossary, while others had to be understood from their context. It was an honest portrayal of the British Jack Tars, not bowdlerised, but also refraining from the crudeness often associated with sailors of any age. My favourite sailors were Lieutenant Clinton and Stirk, the gunner's mate. They were the two that stood out from the crew and I especially appreciated Clinton's development while they were in action on Buenos Aires.
The one thing that bothered me was the character of Renzi. While he does have some decisive actions in the plot and I liked him as a character, there is an entire story arc about him writing a novel, which while entertaining, didn't really seem to serve any purpose in the story other than to keep him conveniently out from underfoot for large stretches of the narrative. Perhaps the novel will be an element in a future instalment; I hope it will be, because even if the philosophising on the craft of writing was interesting, otherwise it was a giant filler plotline. Other than the aforementioned novel plotline, the story is tightly plotted and moves at a fair clip.
Betrayal was an entertaining read, which also showed me something of history I didn't know. Making Thomas Kydd's acquaintance was a pleasure and one I hope to renew in the future. I'll definitely be getting my dad a copy of the first novel in this series, as he loves a rousing nautical tale. If you like those as well, then Betrayal is definitely a book you'll enjoy.
This book was provided for review by the publisher.
on 23 October 2012
For those of you familiar with the genre of Napoleonic naval fiction, and the Kydd series in particular, this is an excellent addition and a fantastic read.I note I am not the only one to have found it impossible to put down, amongst the reviewers!
I was slightly disappointed to see it compared similarly to the Hornblower series, as I think Mr Stockwins work to be profoundly superior.
I have read all 13 books, and as you would expect, the characters have been developed in a very pleaasing way through the journeys Stockwin takes them on.I find some writers in the genre get a bit too tied up in the action, and whilst that is extremely exciting in Stockwins books, the character development, and the descriptions of on board life are equally important.Personally, I enjoy hearing about the lives and conditions of the characters on board, and the romance of the sea, and its horrors,and they should be important parts of stories about the age of sail, and with Stockwin, they certainly are.
As a student of history, the other most gratifying thing about these tales, is the incredible attention to detail Stockwin puts into his research.Also, he discovers and writes about little remembered events that could have changed the course of history, and he does it with the authority and panache of a true storyteller, in love with his subject matter, and enormously capable of taking us, the audience along with his characters on their missions.
I woulld unreservedly recommend this to anyone who likes a great story, well told, and no naval tale reader will come away anything but hugely pleased with this greatly satisfying book.
Well done, Mr Stockwin.Please keep these coming.I await them all with great anticipation.
on 21 February 2013
Sorry Mr Stockwin.I read 'Betrayal' and would advise Kydd to saet sail for the open seas away fron South America as quickly as possible if this drawn out 'adventure' is the best that results.
I am re-reading O'brian just to make sure I am not being unjust.Seth Hunter and Russel Thomas and Donarchie are much more exciting and worthwhile reads.
The subject matter of 'Betrayal is interesting,but no substitute for action and interest.
on 3 May 2016
A series to which my return has been long overdue. I've been a fan of this series from the very start and it was excellent to spend some time listening to Rodska's perfectly suited narration of Stockwin's characters. This actually turned out to be one of my favourites in the series!
Plenty of action, clever tactics and Renzi's latest attempts to win back respectability take an amusing turn. Unusually there is no great romantic interest for Kydd to be distracted by and I have to confess to not missing that regular staple of his ongoing story.
There is of course the usual demonstration of Stockwin's vast knowledge of his subject which is never allowed to bog the story down.
If you haven't tried this series yet it is very well worth taking the books in the right order rather than jumping in but this could still be enjoyed as a standalone adventure.
In brief this is a most excellent continuation of one of my favourite series and I'd recommend it to anyone interested in the genre.
on 4 May 2014
I became hooked on this author from the very first hard back outing in this series and I still am collecting every one,despite the regrettable price increases on most hardbacks thses days, and insufficent discounting on some works. This is an excellent story and is on a par with every one published to date-this is a consistently fine author and the absence of unneccessary foul languge is a blessing. I have always found the use of the period vocabulary spoken by Kydd to be a little irritating but the overall excellence in terms of storyline, drawing of characters and the sailing and fightiong detail over rules any misgivings. This book and the others in the series are simply spendid. Julian Stockwin may well be the successor to Alexander Kent.