Kydd Hardcover – Jun 2001
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From C.S. Forester onwards, the tale of high adventure on the sea has produced some splendidly vivid writing; in fact, as genres go, there have probably been more consistently impressive creations in this field than in all historical fiction. With such a legacy looming behind him, a new author has to be able to present something special in order to make any kind of mark. With Kydd, Julian Stockwin quickly signals that he is an innovative and accomplished fresh talent in the field, with a complex and richly drawn hero (always so necessary in the naval tale) at the centre of an intelligently structured narrative.
Thomas Paine Kydd is press-ganged in Guildford, and is wrenched from his safe profession of wig making to join the crew of the 98-gun line-of-battle ship Duke William. We have been treated to the horrors of the below-deck life of the common seaman before, but Stockwin renders these scenes as exuberantly as any of his predecessors. He is also particularly good at delineating the changing character of his hero, as Kydd comes to admire the skills of the seamen and (of course) becomes a true sailor himself. Although, at times, the book has the feel of the setting up of a new series, it's none the worse for that. Stockwin can command your attention with ease when his writing has such unyielding power as:
The boatswain's mate advanced, taking the cat-o-nine-tails from the bag. He took a position a full eight feet away to one side, and drew the long deadly lashes through his fingers, experimentally sweeping back to ensure that there was enough clear space to swing it. Kydd stared across the few yards of empty deck at the man's pale, helpless body. At the instant it flew downward the drumbeats stopped, so the sickening smack of the blow came loud and clear. Donelly did not cry out, but his gasp was high and choked. The nine tails not only left long bruised weals, but at every point where they landed, blood began to seep.--Barry Forshaw --This text refers to an alternate Hardcover edition.
From Publishers Weekly
Thomas Paine Kydd. Arrr, matey, there's a name to hang a man for sure. In this delightful first installment in a new series in the tradition of Patrick O'Brian, Kydd is a bright lad pressed into the service of his majesty (Farmer George, the Madness himself) on the ship-of-the-line Duke William. It's 1793, and England is on the brink of war with the French. In what seems almost a day-by-day account, we follow Kydd from his nightmarish introduction to naval life to his promotion to ordinary seaman. Befriended first by Joe Bowyer, a simple, honest sailor who teaches him the ropes, Kydd later makes the acquaintance of Nicholas Renzi, a cultivated-looking man with a secret. Camaraderie, grog and pride in their work is all the sailors have to ease the hardship of life on board ship. It's a rough life, and Stockwin skillfully makes readers share the pain and tedium of it, but this is more than a historical adventure tale: it is the story of the education of a young man. Stockwin, who joined the Royal Navy at 15 and retired a lieutenant commander, knows his ships and his men as well as his historical era. Kydd, a strong, ordinary sort with a mind of his own, is a convincing character and so are his shipmates. The jargon comes thick and fast, so much so that the book would have benefited from a glossary a ship's diagram would have come in handy, too. But the skim of the story and the depth of the characterizations will ease readers past any obscure terms. Agent, Stuart Krichevsky. (June)Forecast: Less literary than O'Brian, more atmospheric than Hornblower and more realistic than Lamdin, this promising series will need a bit of a push at first, but should pick up steam in the long run.
Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.See all Product Description
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Top Customer Reviews
"Kydd" is an intense read. I could only manage one chapter each sitting, for the most part, because each chapter has a remarkable storyline in and of itself, usually culminating in something highly emotional and vivid such as cannons firing back and forth. The battle scenes are rendered with no details spared so prepare yourself for some blood and gore. I could also *feel* the chill of the wind, taste the awful food and the warming relief of the grog.
I enjoyed Kydd's character very much as he adapts to his new life and finds he actually loves it, but I liked his best friend Renzi even better. The two make a perfect pair of buddies - Kydd is fresh, young, unschooled, and Renzi with his haunted past and intellectual musings on life, together make a whole person you just have to appreciate.
I don't know many of the sailing terms but it did not stop me from enjoying the story one bit. I've visited the author's website, and there are links to glossaries there. I appreciate the way the author explains some things but lets others slide, so you never get bogged down into details. This story moves fast and yar. I added this book to my list of "great reads."
I liked the technical descriptions of how ships operate, but this may not appeal to others. The novel is really a collection of short stories in the life of Kydd who is pressed into the Navy and then grows into a seaman; so it jumps around a lot. Kydd's best friend, Renzi, is not any better drawn that Kydd, but maybe future books by Stockwin will better define their character and make them more dimensional.
I enjoyed reading this book, but if the author does not improve his characterization and flow of narrative, I will not be reading any future books by the author. There are a number of authors out there that are worthy of consideration beside O'brian--Richard Woodman has got this type of sea story down. Try Jan Needle for a view of what life is like in the lower decks with a crazy captain.
But the setting is the same, with a bonus of more realism than O'Brian ever managed, and the language of the lower deck is just as pungent.
It's much the same world, this time seen from before the mast, and this is the half-world that O'Brian rarely peeped into. We live in the shadows of the gun decks, our existence made up of rows and rows of hammocks, the mess tables between the guns, the fo'csle make and mend and the taunt line to be toed when dealing with officers.
The atmosphere is pungent - and you can almost smell the rich aromas that arise during the action. The sights and sounds of the lower deck complete the picture.
If I have a criticism, it's that some of the events and characters are a little far-fetched. A few too many coincidences for my liking, and one is made conscious of the mind of the author doing a little embroidery here and there.
But, that niggle aside, this is a series I shall follow with keen interest. Maybe Stockwin cannot match the literary style of O'Brian, but he gives us a new view on the same world and it is a pleasure to revisit it.
Oh yeah. Keep a bucket handy for when the barky starts to toss. You'll find yourself at the end of the book afore ye know it and be rolling down the street to buy the next in the series.
Kydd, a landlubber is a genteel sort, not used to the rough life of hardship typical of the English sailor. He is at first scorned by his shipmates but eventually is taken under the wing of seawise sailor Bowyer. Bowyer with a gentle touch teaches Kydd the duties of a sailor. Kydd after realizing that he will not escape his fate aboard the ship relents and solely desires to become an able seaman. Kydd is progressing toward his goal when Bowyer is tragically killed in a fall off a towering yardarm of the main mast. Kydd is then befriended by the previously taciturn Renzi a cultured aristocratic sort who is paying self imposed penance aboard the Duke William.
Together Kydd and Renzi fight together against the French in a fierce naval battle and share adventures as the war progresses.
Stockwin recreates a seemingly authentic representation of the lifestyle of a British sailor in the 18th century. The book unfortunately begins with a plethora of sailing terminology which initially make it a difficult read.
Most recent customer reviews
As a first novel, this book is impressive. Sometimes the story line seems a bit implausible, but the characters are vivid and realistic. Read morePublished on Nov. 29 2003
I'm a Hornblower fan, but unlike so many others, I've never enjoyed Patrick O'Brian's naval books. (They are fine books, I know; for some reason, they just don't click with me. Read morePublished on Aug. 1 2003 by Amazon Customer
For those of us mourning the loss of Patrick O'Brien and the end of his wonderful Aubrey/Maturin series Julian Stockwin's Kydd is a welcome addition to the genré. Read morePublished on Aug. 28 2002 by Jason P.
I find Julian Stockwin's novel "Kydd," the first in a projected series about the adventures of a Royal Navy seaman during the Napoleonic wars, to be a glass both half full and half... Read morePublished on May 8 2002 by Bruce Trinque
A wig-maker pressed into service against his will (yes, the press was around then) and an aristocrat on self-imposed exile, form an unlikely friendship as one struggles to master... Read morePublished on May 5 2002 by Tony Watson
This is an outstanding first effort, and the first book on naval fiction that presents the British navy in the age of Napoleon from the viewpoint of a pressed man. Read morePublished on May 1 2002 by bookjunkiereviews
Julian Stockwin's "Kydd" has a strong first half but dissapointed me during the second half. Read morePublished on April 30 2002 by steven moss