Artemis, by Julian Stockwin

by Peter on December 15, 2010

Being a big fan of the nautical fiction genre, and having read CS Forrester, Patrick O’Brian, Dewey Lambdin and others, I was excited recently to ‘find’ Kydd, Artemis and Seaflower, – all books in the so called “Kydd and Renzi” series – and (for me) a new series of historical fiction books from the romantic sail era written by an interesting “new” author.

Artemis is the second story in the Artemis, by Julian Stockwin Thomas Kydd and Nicolas Renzi series. In the first, Kydd, the hero was pressed into naval service. Here, there is a little bit of a change of pace. Now the two friends Kydd and Renzi are “Able Seamen” in the frigate Artemis.

Also, in this book, the characters of the two heroes are developed a little further. This is especially true for the somewhat mysterious Renzi – a man much more versed in the ways of the world and clearly of a higher social class than the average seaman in the Royal Navy at the time! Now we learn a little more about why he gives us this impression.

Artemis is a fierce little ship, a great raider and a ship with a reputation for winning prize money. Just the kind of ship that suits Thomas Kydd – a man in need of prize money and looking for opportunities to distinguish himself in action. While the ships of the line were large and slow, frigates combined speed, maneuverability and firepower. And they also required more of each man and provided closer comradeship with less ceremony and formality.

In this book, both Kydd and Renzi distinguish themselves aboard the sleek frigate Artemis in a cutthroat battle where she is over-matched against the French frigate Citoyenne. The battle ends in hand-to-hand combat and a very hard-won victory for Artemis. Thus our heroes get to be rated Petty Officers. This means they make the huge transition from seaman’s mess to the Petty Officer’s mess.

Julian Stockwin paints a full vivid picture of naval life with lots of attention to detail. There is clearly a lot of knowledge and research behind this series, as well as considerable knowledge about navy life. Also, I find that I like Stockwin’s writing – it is to the point, and he drives the stories forward at a good pace. The characters are pretty much original, although some parallels to the writings of Patrick O’Brian and his unforgettable Captain Aubrey and Doctor Maturin can be found. This series is good and entertaining, but not quite – so far – in the class of  O’Brian, Marryat and Conrad, from a literary point of view. Still, Artemis is a good book, greatly entertaining and recommended for lovers of naval historical fiction!

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