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Kydd: A Naval Adventure Paperback – May 7, 2002

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Editorial Reviews

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.

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

When wig maker Tom Kydd is impressed into the British navy, he finds himself ill prepared to endure the rigors of life at sea. Not only must he contend with his ignorance of all things nautical and the constant threat of being swept overboard, but he must also deal with the inedible food and a sadistic boatswain who eagerly punishes crew members. The kindly Bowyer, who recognizes a potential seafarer in Tom, soon takes the young boy under his wing and gives him a comprehensive naval education. Later, Tom forges a friendship with the enigmatic Renzi, whose stone-faced composure belies a troubled past. With his newfound friends, Tom battles shipwrecks, mutinous crews, and heated battles with the villainous French. Stockwin charts Tom's transition from helpless landlubber to able seaman with zest, and history buffs will appreciate the careful attention Stockwin pays to the minutiae of life on the sea. Adventure and historical fiction fans will delight in this well-crafted yarn, the first in a planned series. Brendan Dowling
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Touchstone; Reprint edition (May 7, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0743214595
  • ISBN-13: 978-0743214599
  • Product Dimensions: 8.1 x 5.4 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (65 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,912,221 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

I wanted to go to sea ever since I can remember. My mother says that as a toddler I went up to sailors on the street, and on one occasion dragged home a dead seabird because it smelled of the sea! I was entranced when my great uncle Tom Clay, a seaman in square-rigged ships who had sailed around the Horn in the "Cutty Sark", took me over this ship. As a young boy I read everything about the sea and I was especially terrified by a description of a great storm, but longed to go to sea to experience one.
I won a scholarship to a grammar school, but my mind was captivated by seeing low grey shapes far out to sea, outward bound to who knew where. I passed this sight every day on my way to school; my scholastic performance suffered!
In the hope of having the nonsense knocked out of me, my father sent me to a tough sea-training school. This only strengthened my resolve for a life at sea and at fifteen I joined the Royal Navy.
After leaving the Navy (rated Petty Officer) I practised as an educational psychologist. I worked for some time in Hong Kong, where I was commissioned into the Royal Naval Reserve.
I now live in Devon with my wife and literary partner, Kathy - and two Siamese cats.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

28 of 29 people found the following review helpful By A reader in Michigan on June 13, 2001
Format: Hardcover
It seems that everyone is writing a naval series these days. I know my paperboy started one and the guy at the video store looks to be publishing his third. It would seem then that you would have to be doing something pretty special to justify a new series -- especially when you consider the works of Forester and O'Brian. I think Stockwin is trying for something special, in part by setting this his first story in the ranks of common sailors, but also from taking the naval aspect of these stories very seriously. You do get a healthy sense of sea life in this tale, though you are often frustrated by the very limitations of this life. It is hard to get a bigger picture of things precisely because these sailors were largely in the dark. This sense that anything can happen out of the blue often gives the story a kind of disjointed feel, as if each episode is unconnected with the rest. Moreover, there are a lot of episodes.
Despite this, and a sense that Stockwin is a much better observer of naval life than human character, the story was often gripping and the narrative never flagged. If you haven't read Patrick O'brian's novels, I would start there first before considering Kydd, but with the passing of O'brian and the Aubrey-Maturin series, Kydd warrants a serious look.
I wish there were room for half-stars, because three and a bit seems right to me.
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21 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on August 1, 2003
Format: Hardcover
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.) So I was delighted to find "Kydd," a Napoleonic seafaring adventure, capturing my interest almost from the first page, as the hero is unhappily pressed into service in the Royal Navy. Unlike Hornblower, Kydd is a rankless landlubber, which enables Stockwin to provide a new and interesting perspective. Like the C.S. Forester novels, though, "Kydd" is fast-paced and interesting. This is a promising start to what one hopes will be a long series. Or maybe I'm wrong.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on November 29, 2003
Format: Paperback
As a first novel, this book is impressive. Sometimes the story line seems a bit implausible, but the characters are vivid and realistic. Readers who don't know much about naval fiction will feel right at home, as Kydd is a young man who has been press-ganged to sea and must work his way up on his first ship, experiencing firsthand the beauty and horror of the sea. Having read 'Artemis' and 'Seaflower', the sequels to Stockwin's first novel, I have come to appreciate 'Kydd' a lot more. Disappointingly, I feel that Stockwin had a wonderful capability and his books were promising, but have not found his proceeding books as engaging as this one. So read this book and appreciat it - you can't always find other ones as rewarding, even by the same author.
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17 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Bruce Trinque VINE VOICE on May 8, 2002
Format: Hardcover
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 empty. There are some aspects of the novel which were truly excellent. Stockwin has a detailed command of the physical aspects of the Royal Navy -- the ships, the implements and small duties of daily life, the sea itself, and he brings those physical aspects into vivid existence. When he wrote how a wave dashing against the hull of a ship sent water spurting through the narrow crack around the lid of a gunport, I realized that I had never thought of this happening but instantly recognized that his description was unmistakably true. Such descriptions of ships and the sea dominate the first half of "Kydd" and, at the halfway point, I was eager to read further. But ... The second half of the novel is much more given to characters and what is supposed to be an action-filled plot, and -- at least at this stage of his writing career -- Stockwin is no master of either. I found the minor characters unmemorable and one of the main characters, Nicholas Renzi, to be literally unbelievable. When he says, "Perhaps one day we will sail to the Orient -- I have a morbid desire to imbibe their metaphysics at the source," I personally have a morbid desire to throw away his thesaurus.
Depite my reservations about the characters (and their often strained dialogue), I would still recommend "Kydd" to nautical novel enthusiasts. Read the first half slowly and revel in the intense physical world recreated, then scan the predictable plot turns of the second half more quickly. I will undoubtedly read the next novel in the series, "Artemus," and will hope that Julian Stockwin's skill as an author grows to meet the promise shown by the first half of "Kydd."
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Peter Mackay on November 4, 2002
Format: Hardcover
OK. First off, this initial instalment in a new naval fiction series isn't Patrick O'Brian reborn. There aren't the depths upon depths of O'Brian in style, nor the superb characterisation of Jack Aubrey and Stephen Maturin.
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.
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