Reviewed by David Maclaine
At the outset of Command, seventh in the Kydd series, the hero seems poised to watch his promising career spiral down the drain. But just when the ire of Thomas Paine Kydd's old adversary seems to have wrecked his chances, a great stroke of fortune restores them, and Kydd finds himself the delighted commander of a sloop of war named Teazer. He is quickly confronted with all the challenges of command, from scraping together a crew at Malta and trying to rectify the ship’s light armament, to instantaneous decisions in the face of the enemy. Sometimes he blunders, other times he is undone by sheer bad luck, but he learns quickly, and with the occasional stroke of good fortune, finds that his leadership and judgment are up to the challenge. Just when he wins the sort of distinction that should lead to further advances in his career, he is undone by the direst turn of events that can befall a professional fighting man: the outbreak of peace. Soon Kydd is sculling hopelessly in a backwater, desperate for some way to return to the sea. When his chance comes, it involves a dispiriting compromise. But he is on his way once more to the far side of the world, where he will play a role in exploring a new continent. In the meantime his friend Renzi, recovered from a near-fatal fever, is caught up in another clash between his idealistic dreams and the harsh realities of an unfamiliar land.
Once again author Stockwin provides well researched views of odd corners of the world at the dawn of the nineteenth century, as he spins out action sequences informed by a keen understanding of the details that made the crucial difference between life and death in combat during the Age of Sail. Command is an apt title, the right word both for Kydd’s latest step forward and for his creator’s mastery of historical detail and the storyteller’s art. (2006, 320 pages)More about Command at Powell's Books or Amazon.com