I’m on my second Thomas Kydd novel by Julian Stockwin, Artemis, and I must say that so far I am underwhelmed.
I’d planned on following that series in the same manner I have for Dewey Lambdin’s Alan Lewrie novels but at this point I’m not not sure I will go beyond the current novel.
My gripes thus far:
- Basic inaccuracies concerning naval life of the time. Not niggling, picayune, obscure things but fairly basic things. Like, for instance, when a ship was in port the sailors received fresh food and the pursers had a financial stake in providing it.
- A improbably fast learning curve for Kydd. In all novels the hero does things we can’t do but his actions are not improbable. Kydd goes from a pressed man to being rated as an Able Seaman in six months. Hard to believe.
- Generally implausible occurrences. A sailor dies in the hold of a ship of the line and Kydd finds his decomposing body. Didn’t someone miss the guy before he started exuding a phosphorescent glow? A sailor is murdered in the hold of a ship of the line and, as far as we know, he’s never missed and never found. Kydd and a friend, the gentleman ranker (if I’m allowed to use the army term) Renzi, desert to a resupply ship. They recapture the ship from French privateers, etc., and are greeted by their captain, the same guy who had ordered Kydd flogged on an obviously trumped up charge, as if the were on some kind of a harmless lark. When the land attack they are accompanying is routed by the French who should they stumble upon but a former girlfriend of Renzi who saves them.
- Plodding dialog.
- Too many points of view. One of the downsides of using a common sailor as your hero is that the plot is circumscribed by what the narrator could realistically know. Stockwin evades this by regularly including other points of view in the story. I found Lambdin’s writing from the point of view of Napoleon and Lewrie’s nemesis Choundas to be annoying. Stockwin goes beyond that, in my view.
- Kydd is a cypher. We know little about him and what we do learn is inconsistent. For instance, his sister seems to be both better educated and more cultured than he is.