Julian Stockwin, Author . Scribner $24 (336p) ISBN 978-0-7432-1462-9

The latest installment of this rousing naval adventure series set during the Napoleonic wars finds stalwart British seaman Thomas Kydd and his comrade, slumming aristocrat-philosophe Nicholas Renzi, ping-ponging around the Caribbean as Britain and France fight over the West Indies. The manic plot encompasses four battles, three courts of naval inquiry, two hurricanes, two shark attacks, a shipwreck, yellow fever, the rescue of French Royalists and a few floggings and dinner parties. As Kydd surmounts all leadership challenges, his courage and resourcefulness are praised by a series of ever more august naval father figures, and he experiences a dizzying social ascent from ordinary sailor to master's mate, picking up along the way the navigational skills and drawing-room manners of an officer and a gentleman. The oedipal fantasy at the heart of the book dovetails with simplistic anti-Jacobin politics, in which the British Navy is a bastion of meritocracy and upward mobility, achieving through incrementalism and rational hierarchy what the French fail to achieve through social revolution. Kydd's two-dimensional character is all virtue and heroism—even a stint as a slave overseer leaves him morally uncompromised—and the book never surpasses the level of vigorous melodrama. Still, Stockwin's richly detailed, if idealized, portrait of life on ship and shore in Britain's oceanic empire is engrossing. He writes evocatively of shipboard routine, the panic and confusion of combat and the terrifying approach of a storm at sea, and he knows how to stage enthralling action scenes. His ability to tap into male wish-fulfillment will ensure a growing readership. (June)

Reviewed on: 06/02/2003
Release date: 05/01/2003
Genre: Fiction
Paperback - 407 pages - 978-0-340-79478-4
Paperback - 352 pages - 978-0-7432-1463-6
Hardcover - 515 pages - 978-0-7862-5514-6
Hardcover - 516 pages - 978-0-7540-9335-0
Paperback - 320 pages - 978-1-59013-155-8
Open Ebook - 352 pages - 978-1-4391-0767-6
Hardcover - 688 pages - 978-0-7540-1987-9
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