Julian Stockwin,
Kydd #8: The Admiral's Daughter
(McBooks, 2007)

Tom Kydd's life has been pretty smooth sailing so far. Through seven volumes of his adventures at sea, he has suffered setbacks and travails, but he's always muddled through with a combination of luck, naturally good instincts and sympathetic people in power.

That changes somewhat in The Admiral's Daughter, eighth book in the long-running series by Julian Stockwin. And I'm not talking about his mission off the coast of England -- for the first time in home waters, where he and his crew on Teazer are set to put a stop to smuggling and piracy -- but ashore.

For Tom, y'see, has fallen in love.

With a lady far above his station. (Go on, look at the title. It's a hint.)

And you might find yourself thinking, as you read his adventures both at sea and ashore, that things are going surprisingly smoothly for him once again as he climbs the social ladder -- like, for instance, when he is abruptly coerced into singing for a gathering of lords and ladies and proves, without any foreshadowing, to be an amazingly talented performer.

But then, suddenly, there's a small (really BIG) hitch in his plans. And then something goes wrong. And then something goes really wrong.

Circumstances for our Mr. Kydd have certainly changed by the end. I am very eager to read the next volume and see what happens next. It's possible that Stockwin has decided to make things really unpleasant for his protagonist for a while.

Oh, don't worry, there are still plenty of sea adventures here, including chases, battles and rescue attempts, and a bit of subtle infiltration, too, to ferret out the leader of an especially pernicious smuggling ring. To be honest, though, Stockwin's devotes a little too much ink to Kydd's burgeoning romance and gives less space to the nautical aspects than I'd like. The nautical stuff -- and let's remember, that's why most of his readers buy these books -- gets short shrift this time around, with some events wrapped up far too quickly for my taste.

Also, although I don't typically read romance novels and perhaps am not the best judge, I'd say Stockwin is a better sea-adventure writer than romance novelist; the romance unfolds somewhat stiltedly, to my eye, and lacks any real sense of passion. (Even during the big twist at the end, when passion seems to be called for, I see mostly just angst.)

Kydd himself continues to be a winning character, however, although Nicholas Renzi -- his best friend, shipmate and confidante since near the start of the series -- has taken several turns toward unpleasantness and could probably be written out of the tale without too many complaints. Stockwin provides plenty of detail, showing his usual devotion to research, particularly in describing the Cornish coast and its people.

All in all, The Admiral's Daughter is a pleasant book. It's not as strong as the books preceding it in the series, but it does set the stage for great events to come.

book review by
Tom Knapp

7 April 2012

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