Thomas Kydd has again claimed the helm of his beloved sloop-of-war, HMS Teazer. With him is his old friend Nicholas Renzi. After engaging in some heavy sea action Kydd, a former rakish corsair, is assigned to join in the coastal defenses of Britain against the invasion by Napoleon’s forces. There is a strong sense that invasion from France is imminent and that only the Navy stands between England and Napoleon.
Meanwhile, Renzi is on a secret mission as a spy in France, seeking to establish a connection to the American inventor Robert Fulton. He is to seek to bribe Fulton into switching his allegiances. Mr. Fulton is developing some new “infernal machines” that can wreak mass destruction from a distance –submarines, and torpedoes.
Renzi is eventually successful and is able to bring Fulton to England in one piece. Now the Navy needs to find out whether there is any substance to Fulton’s claims that his inventions will change the future of naval warfare, and – even more important – whether they can be used to destroy the invasion fleet Napoleon is amassing across the channel.
Thomas Kydd, who has some experience in dealing with Americans, is the man assigned to the role of liaison with the somewhat demanding and quite difficult American inventor. More and more Kydd becomes convinced that the infernal machines of Fulton will work, and that they can contribute to the defense of England. And the fate of England is at stake.
But there is much to do – improved designs, lots of testing, gaining support from the powers that be to get access to the needed resources, and so on. And Thomas Kydd is the man for the job.
Invasion is an interesting book in many ways. But there is less naval action than we are used to in this series, and instead more spying and more about politics. I am not sure I like this so much. Also, I feel that the characters of Kydd and Renzi are developing in the wrong direction. Kydd’s main concern seems to be to become a gentleman. Renzi is becoming a kind of philosopher/clerk/spy and a bit of a whiner – a kind of person you don’t expect to find in the Royal Navy at the time and who isn’t a very interesting hero.
To me, this whole book feels a little bit like an interlude and as if Stockwin is testing the limits of his increasing skills as a writer. I hope he returns to the style of earlier books instead. The book is, of course, an interesting book for followers of this series, but I cannot recommend Invasion to new readers.