Julian Stockwin,
Kydd #9: The Privateer's Revenge
(McBooks, 2008)

One of the failings of the Thomas Kydd series has been the likability of its protagonist. Our man Tom, a pressed wigmaker who rose swiftly through the ranks to become a captain of His Majesty's Navy, is such a congenial fellow that people go out of their way to help him along -- the crux being that his path is always easier than it should be, and he rarely pays the price for his misdeeds.

Well, Kydd's star has fallen. I find myself disliking the man through much of The Privateer's Revenge.

Sure, we start off feeling sorry for the guy. His fiancee died in the previous book, The Admiral's Daughter, and Kydd is feeling sad. But damn it, man, you're an officer in the navy, and there's a war on with France! Read any series set in this era and you'll see heroes suffer crushing personal blows -- but none has ever been so inconsolable as our man Tom. He steeps and stews in his misery, and he becomes a tyrant of a captain in the process. Even his treatment of fellow captains and superior officers is callous and rude.

It doesn't take long before you simply stop liking him. I mean, call me a fair-weather friend, but he's being a jerk.

It doesn't help that his fiancee in the previous book -- unlike the eponymous admiral's daughter, whom he ultimately rejects -- was poorly developed as a character, so readers can't really empathize with Kydd's sorrow.

Then there's this thing with a set of falsified orders, and Kydd is set up to take the fall as a smuggler, and boo hoo, he loses his command and ends up homeless and destitute in Guernsey, where he works backstage at a playhouse until he suddenly has a privateer's ship thrust in his lap, and after one brief and minor setback everything goes great for him as it always does and, wow, he's rich and popular again.

Meanwhile, his best chum Renzi accidentally becomes a spy and, because he can, fixes everything to ensure Kydd gets his command back again.

Don't get me wrong, I like the Kydd series, and I think Julian Stockwin is a good writer. But he stumbled in The Admiral's Daughter, and he fell flat on his face in The Privateer's Revenge. The most interesting part of the book -- the bit where Kydd becomes a privateer, hence the title -- is crammed into the final pages, robbing readers of the bulk of the action.

But I'm a nice guy, so I'll proceed to the next book in the series to see if Stockwin and Kydd can recover their footing. I hope so.

book review by
Tom Knapp

5 January 2013

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