Conquest: A Kydd Sea Adventure (Kydd Sea Adventures) Mr Stockwin has done it again. I was a soldier so did not get to spend much time at sea. Once, while waiting to join my Regiment in Berlin, and at which time I ended up getting there 24 hours after my suitcase and kitbag (and that was me joining Man's service from Boy's service so my first time at the Regiment.... but that's another story) I had a trip on a destroyer from Edinburgh to Portsmouth. The ship had an association with my Regiment, as inter service organisations seem to have, a bit like towns in different countries twinning is about the nearest simile I can draw for you. I have also been on lots of ferries from Dover to Calais and from Portsmouth/Plymouth to Bilbao. And, finally a little bit of tacking about in small sailing dinghy's.
So, what has Mr Stockwin done again, I hear you ask? Well, even if you have never been near the sea reading a Kydd novel by him has a uniqueness about it that is so descriptive, that you can almost taste the salt in your mouth and the spray on your face as you plunge through the waves aboard the L'Aurore captained and crewed by the utterly convincing characters at the helm and in the rigging of this ship. Whether it be in the English Channel or rounding the Cape into the Indian Ocean you can feel the surge of the vessel as she is in full sail into the next adventure or chapter, it really is that good, and that is what you want from a book. A book is something more than a collection of the words contained within the covers, a book is a device unlike any other whether it be TV or Movie or Video or Comic.
A book is a means by which an author presents to you the reader, his or her words in a way that allows you to visualise in your minds eye every detail of every character of every scene presented in full mind blowing technicolour imagery that only the imagination can present....always much more satisfying than on screen, to my mind at least.
Julian Stockwin does this so skilfully in the Kydd series and this is clearly down to the research he puts into each book in developing these quasi historical dramas. Fiction is cleverly interwoven with past reality and we find that Kydd and the crew of L'Aurore, still recovering from their own trials at the Battle of Trafalgar are tasked with the honour of bearing the body of Admiral Lord Nelson back to London for his state funeral, Having been involved in the greatest naval battle of all time you would think that Stockwin would cut them a break with some shore leave, but no, he is a hard taskmaster and no sooner is the body delivered to Greenwich and they are back on the outgoing tide back down the Thames and into the open sea, as fast as they can be re-supplied.
The Action moves onto Maderia where Kydd is attached a a squadron bound for Africa with Army units with orders to relieve the Dutch of their possession of the Cape and surrounding environs and bring it into the Empire. Kydd is attached to Commanding General's staff on land for the first battles and is horrified by the carnage that he sees and that we feel as we also read the description of what takes place, and we like him are praying for relief by being allowed back to OUR ship.
Having won a decisive but unexpected victory, while the main opposing forces carry out a tactical withdrawal , well that's what British Army commanders call them, but if you were a grunt like me the shorter version was usually just a retreat, in land, the commander left in charge of the Cape capitulates and hands the town and fort over to the British. Kydd is reunited with his ship but arranges for dear Renzi to then become attached to the Commanding General who has become the 'New' Governor and in need of a 'Colonial Secretary'. If you haven't read any of the Kydd novels (why not?) you will understand the sublime happiness that this unexpected turn of events gives to the reader to see poor Nicholas so elevated, but you will need to read the previous books to get that feeling you get where Nicholas Renzi is concerned (sometimes you just want to give him a kick in the pants to get him motivated, but you do feel for him).
So, the race is on by the British to secure their new holdings and once again Kydd is in the mix, fighting the sea and the French to preserve this new part of Empire and all I can say is if you haven't read any of Julian Stockwin's novels you really are missing out. They are both entertaining and educating. Did you know that Royal Navy ships of old, for example, required both a Captain and a Sailing Master. The ship could not sail without the latter who was responsible for navigation, not a function that the Captain was expected to carry out, well, neither did I until I started reading Mr Stockwin, so there you go, have a thoroughly enjoyable read and education for the price of one, what more can be had from a good historical drama............