Treachery by Julian Stockwin

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Treachery by Julian Stockwin

Category: Historical Fiction
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: John Lloyd
Reviewed by John Lloyd
Summary: Commander Kydd is forced to take stock by a seeming demotion and the loss of his love. The rebirth of this cycle of Napoleonic nautical fiction will be welcome to its fans but otherwise this is clearly not the place to start.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 352 Date: October 2008
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
ISBN: 978-0340961117

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Things are going rapidly downhill for our hero Kydd. He's completed a successful mission (or cruise, as the book insists on calling it) for his bosses in the Royal Navy, but he has lost his beloved to the waters and is up against enemies among his superiors. As a result he is given the ignominy of what appears to be a dull, profitless new errand – patrolling the waters of the Channel, based in Guernsey.

It doesn't necessarily mean there is nothing for him to do, however – he can mope over the seas, and when he is forced to act on orders he does so with such startling vigour that all his shipmates fear for their lives – Kydd, they think, has a deathwish, which is more than a little worrying. That can be acted on, however, and is, through action on both land and sea, but can the same be said of whoever else it is that would appear to have it in for him?

The reason behind the damning entry to the backwaters he faces will be known to those who have joined this series before this juncture, but for the newcomer it takes a little more time in the unravelling. This is a case of the review gods being a little unkind for me, I feel – jumping on board (pun intended) at book nine, and expecting me to pick up immediately. While counter to that, however, is a strong sense of a great sea-change (pun intended) in Kydd, as the character starts afresh.

The returning fan of the series will already know how to counter the other elements that might at first appear off-putting – the way the blunt, uneducated speech of Kydd is translated to the written form, and the countless examples of nautical and historical vocabulary. We have to trust our author, an experienced Navy man, with the accuracy of all the tides, habits and customs, and terminology, and I could see no reason not to.

I did feel a little awkward with some aspects of the writing, however. His choice to have a jump-cut from a gentleman's club right into an invasion-styled escapade is more than a little alienating, and made me think my copy might have been victim to a major mistake in binding. I'm not sure if the way the bookish counter to Kydd, a certain Renzi, reacts to an enforced close look at his own morals midway through this book has a charming antiquated veracity or is just a rehash of novels of old.

I have to declare I think the nautical fiction is a singular genre, and the historical form of it even more so – one I have never chosen to read for entertainment outside Conrad. Heck, I never even finished Swallows and Amazons. But I cannot let my naivety show through completely – I can see that for a series such as this to not hit the right buttons would have forced someone to pull the plug way before this volume. It must be a treat to enough readers. Against that was throughout the sense, to me, ignorant as I am of the history of the real-life Napoleonic characters, encounters and battles this series relies on, that the author was going to grind on and get as many volumes out of this character as he could muster.

I am left feeling for me this book was worth three stars, perhaps a bit more, courtesy of the theatrical cameo (although poorly realised – is it love?) and trivia such as the auction late on. There was a nice drive to the story, and I didn't mind the characterisation (slender, given the nature of returning to well-known characters of old) and on the whole I enjoyed the major change of scene the book provided to my reading life. But with that comes the proviso that this book is not worth recommending to the newcomer to the series – while here the reliance on back-story is not overly strong one really should start the cycle with the first and work to this point.

After all those thousands of pages I think the novelty of Kydd working his way afresh from such a place of disappointment – and Renzi working on what he has to work at – would make for a lively and welcome entrant to the series. To those readers returning, and finding yet another competently written, if at times oddly structured, book, this gets the four stars the Bookbag has awarded it with.

We would like to thank Hodder and Stoughton for our review copy.

For more fiction from the same era you might enjoy The Raft by Arabella Edge.

Buy Treachery by Julian Stockwin at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Treachery by Julian Stockwin at Amazon.co.uk.


Buy Treachery by Julian Stockwin at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Treachery by Julian Stockwin at Amazon.com.


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