Book Review / Book Series / Julian Stockwin / Royal Navy / Thomas Kydd

Victory, by Julian Stockwin – the Thomas Kydd series

Victory, the latest installment in the Thomas Kydd series, brings us to the epic Battle of Trafalgar and the events leading up to it. Napoleon has amassed a huge invasion army and wants to take his troops across the Channel and seize Britain. And there is little doubt that he will succeed, should he be able to bring his army across. But to get his troops to England, Napoleon must first defeat the Navy – as long as English battleships control the channel, a successful landing in England will not be possible.

So at this juncture in history, British independence and freedom depend heavily on the Navy. And the Navy is doing its utmost to prevent Napoleon from bringing his ships of the line from the Mediterranean to Spain, linking up with the Spanish Navy, and from there take the combined fleet – with overwhelming numbers – to the channel. To prevent this obvious plan, the Navy is blockading the French ports and preventing the French fleet from coming out. In charge of the blockade of Toulon is Vice-Admiral Nelson.

In Victory, after some initial problems, Thomas Kydd has been promoted to post-captain and has been placed in charge of a fast frigate – Stockwin has placed Kydd right in the action. With his fast, French-built frigate L’Aurore, Kydd and the other frigate captains are the eyes and ears of Nelson’s fleet, providing his Commander in Chief with intelligence on the enemy’s movements that brings the large line-of-battleships into action, then standing off in a support role. Kydd is with the fleet and plays a key role in Admiral Horatio Nelson’s desperate chase of French Admiral Villeneuve across the Atlantic and back, and finally to the momentous battle at Trafalgar that changed the course of history.

While Kydd observes the battle of Trafalgar at a distance, Stockwin also puts us into the center of the action on board H.M.S. Victory as well and gives a very vivid description of the horror of the battle, the exultation of triumph, and of the tragedy of Nelson’s death at the very moment of victory. In Victory, Stockwin has handled what might have been a difficult event to write about – and one that could not easily be ignored – very well. Any series of this era must somehow deal with the three titanic figures of Nelson, Wellington, and Pitt.

This is a wonderful book, well-written, intelligent, and interesting. Julian Stockwin has managed to cleverly provide a fresh and quite gripping account of the Battle of Trafalgar as well as an interesting look at its hero – Nelson. He has placed Bowden as a midshipman on the Victory, thus providing us with the view of the battle from its epicenter. Also, there is lots of action and interesting twists in this fast-paced naval fiction novel. Aficionados of naval fiction will thoroughly enjoy Stockwin’s attention to detail, especially as it relates to seamanship and the internal workings of a man of war. I strongly recommend Victory – it’s a pleasure to read.

“This latest book will not disappoint. Stockwin consciously follows in the tradition of C S Forester and Patrick O’Brian, with extravagant attention to technical detail… Kydd and his ship keep the story moving, giving us a real sense of being in a tall-masted fighting vessel, braving the battle and the breeze.” – Historical Novel Society

“An elegantly plotted book with horrific scenes, including Nelson’s death, carefully intertwined with historic events leading up to the famous battle. The writing has the power of a broadside at close range!” – Oxford Times

“This heady adventure blends fact and fiction in rich, authoritative detail. The author closely follows the historical record, taking readers into the world-defining events of 1805.” – The Nautical Magazine