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The History of Maritime Piracy

Cindy Vallar, Editor & Reviewer
P.O. Box 425, Keller, TX  76244-0425

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Books for Adults ~ Fiction

Kydd          Artemis          Seaflower

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                    Art: Kydd
Kydd
by Julian Stockwin
McBooks Press, 2022, ISBN 978-1-4930-6880-7, US $19.95


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After a long day at work in his family’s wig shop, Thomas Kydd sits in a pub, minding his own business. A press gang waltzes in. forever altering his path in life. He’s whisked aboard the Duke William, an old ship-of-the-line bound for Spithead where the Royal Navy fleet gathers before setting sail to wage war against France in 1793. Rated a landman, Thomas finds his life is no longer his own. It belongs to King George, and no one in this new domain cares whether he lives or dies. He is alone. He has no friends. He is totally out of his element. It is up to him alone to fit in, to find his way in an alien world, until one man, Joe Bowyer, takes him under his wing with a warning: stay a landman and remain mired in the anger and despondency overwhelming him, or pull himself out of the dregs to become a seaman.

Kydd takes Joe’s advice to heart and discovers he has a knack for sailing . . . if he survives. There are rumors that the captain is a Jonah. The ship leaks. Each day brings new trials: suicide, murder, piracy, treachery, battles on land fighting alongside French Royalists or at sea against Revolutionists, imprisonment, betrayal, desertion, menacing French privateers, and fire.

With the mastery of a virtuoso, Stockwin delivers a seamless tale that ensnares the reader in whatever Kydd sees, hears, feels, and experiences, be it a ferocious flogging, the depths of despair, men fomenting mutiny, or the brutality of war. Readers quickly find themselves transported back to the late eighteenth century. No punches are pulled. No incidents betray the readers’ sense of believability. Kydd is a deftly woven and riveting sea story that refuses to let go once the grappling hooks are thrown. When the last page is turned, readers yearn for the next book in the Kydd Sea Adventures.



Review Copyright ©2022 Cindy Vallar

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Cover Art: Artemis
Artemis
by Julian Stockwin
McBooks Press, 2022, ISBN 978-1-4930-6881-4, US $19.95

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Six months have passed since Thomas Kydd was pressed into the Royal Navy. He has risen through skill and courage to become an able seaman. His mess mates have helped him through thick and thin: Renzi (his educated and logical friend), Stirk (a tough gun captain), Doud (an easygoing topman), Doggo (a wild but ugly able seaman), Pinto (a well-groomed yet deadly Iberian), and Wong (an enigmatic circus strongman). Together, they embark on Artemis, a frigate captained by Black Jack Powlett, in this second in the Thomas Kydd Sea Adventures.

After a harrowing sea battle – replete with broadsides and hand-to-hand combat – with the French Citoyenne, Artemis returns victorious, but wounded, to England where Kydd meets the king and reunites with his sister. Cecila’s news of home is not good; their father’s eyesight is failing and Kydd must take over the wig shop to support the family. He thought he had finally found his path in life; now, he must give up his love for the sea. It seems a harsh sentence, one that will be akin to life in prison, but Renzi is certain they will find a solution. The question is whether they will do so before Artemis sails after repairs are made.

Between Renzi and Cecila, a remedy is found in the nick of time. When their frigate weighs anchor in August 1793, Kydd and his mates find themselves bound for India. Speed is essential, but only the captain knows why. During the voyage, they endure storms at sea, lightning strikes, a crossing-the-line ceremony, monsoons, and encounter Army deserters, a pirate execution, and a woman who drives a wedge between Kydd and Renzi.

India turns out to be only their first destination. From there they sail to China and the Philippines. Their stop in the latter is fraught with peril, since no one knows whether Spain has joined the war as a French ally yet. Kydd and Renzi are both promoted to petty officers, which means new quarters and different mess mates. A stranded scientist with Admiralty orders sends the Artemis on an expedition 2,000 miles away farther into the Pacific and they must reach the island by a specific date. Treachery and turbulence earmark this stopover where they encounter cannibals and an American marooned on the island for four years.

From a journey to the far side of the world to navigating the Roaring 40s, the Furious 50s, and the Screaming 60s, Stockwin once again delivers a masterful and galvanizing adventure that provides us with numerous you-are-there experiences alongside Kydd. Some scenes are nightmarish. Others allow us to feel as bereft as he does. We readily identify with how changes impact existing ways of life and some professions become antiquated. The final episode in this circumnavigation of the world is riveting and disquieting, compelling us to read the next installment of Kydd’s exploits in the Royal Navy.



Review Copyright ©2022 Cindy Vallar

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Cover Art: Seaflower
Seaflower
by Julian Stockwin
McBooks Press, 2022, ISBN 978-1-4930-6881-4, US $19.95


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With the demise of the Artemis, Thomas Kydd finds himself the key witness in the upcoming court martial of her only surviving officer. His last visit to England involved a hero’s welcome and grand celebrations. Now, he and his surviving mates are virtual prisoners, instead of being given leave to visit family. Then, on an April night in 1794, they are whisked aboard a lumbering, decaying warship bound for the Caribbean. There will be no trial, no testimony, no one to blame for the shipwreck. The underhandedness leaves a bitter taste in the survivors’ mouths, but what recourse do they have against the Admiralty?

Their destination is Guadeloupe, currently under the occupation of British troops working with French royalists. Kydd and his friend, Nicholas Renzi, quarter in the town with a family still loyal to the monarchy, but fear of retribution permeates their lives. Rebels and insurgents inhabit other parts of the island and, when fighting resumes, the British and royalists are unable to stop the enemy’s advance. A mass evacuation ensues with much chaos, during which Kydd and Renzi become separated. Renzi accompanies the exiles on a different ship for Jamaica; Kydd helps his countrymen evade their pursuers, knowing that death awaits him if they are caught.

Kydd and his comrades are rescued just in time, but not without casualties. No sooner is he safe aboard Trajan once again than a hurricane strikes. Afterward, he is tasked with sailing the damaged vessel to the dockyard in Antigua for repairs; instead, the shipwright condemns the warship and Kydd finds himself ashore with a new assignment, Master of the King’s Negroes. Although he enjoys learning the construction side of shipping, he feels out of his depth in managing slaves who accomplish tasks he has little knowledge of. He longs to return to the sea, where his true talents will be most useful. The master shipwright is a religious man with strict rules. When Kydd violates one of them, he commits an unforgivable sin and is once again adrift.

A chance encounter with an admiral leads to Renzi working as a writer in Spanish Town, Jamaica. Most days he duplicates orders and tends to mundane matters. On rare occasions he translates French newspapers and papers that might contain nuggets of intelligence for the admiral. Renzi dislikes his assignment, but it suits his despondency over the loss of Kydd whom he believes died as the insurgents overran Guadaloupe.

Reunion is a constant theme throughout this story, not just with shipmates, but also with family. Fire at sea, ship engagements, a cutting out episode, and good leaders versus bad ones are some of Kydd’s many adventures this time around. His education continues in ways that provide readers with an understanding of life in the navy. He also has the opportunity to see impressment from the flip side; instead of being a victim, he is charged with acquiring a crew from amongst very reluctant men.

The mark of a great storyteller is one who consistently captures the mood of the story in ways that allow readers to experience firsthand the highs and lows the characters face whether these involve the pain of flogging, the misery of yellow fever, the bleakness of being landbound, the drudgery of paperwork, or nerve-wracking reconnaissance. Julian Stockwin is such an author. At the same time, he spins his tale with succinct writing and tantalizing action. Seaflower catches the reader in its web from the first page and doesn’t let go until the last. Even then the reader is left wanting more, which in this case is possible because this is but the third title in the Kydd Sea Adventures series.




Review Copyright ©2022 Cindy Vallar

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