Stockwin, Julian. Conquest.

Ithaca, NY: McBooks, 2011.

This is the twelfth in the very good series about Thomas Kydd, once a wigmaker in the family business in a suburb of London, then a pressed landsman in the Royal Navy, and now — ten years later — a post captain in the struggle against Napoleon, with powerful people interested in his advancement.

The Battle of Trafalgar, which was the focus of Victory, the previous volume, had two immediate effects: It ended the threat of cross-Channel invasion by the French, and it gave Britain uncontested control of the seas. That might sound it left young Capt. Kydd (the pirate spelled his name with an “i,” as Tom is often at pains to point out) is left with nothing much to do, but virtual control of the world’s oceans also meant that the British Empire could begin expanding rapidly by snapping up enemy colonial possessions. The Dutch are (mostly) reluctant allies of the French and so the Cape Colony, down at the bottom end of Africa, is fair game. It also would be a lovely spot for a Royal Navy station to enhance control of the Indian Ocean and the trade routes to the Far East. Kydd commands one of the two frigates in the rather underpowered flotilla sent to conquer Cape Town and its environs, and the plot concerns his part in the affair, his adventures along the way and after they get there, and his primary role in foiling an attempted French response by arming the inland natives. There’s a good deal less wandering about and commenting at length on society this time (a problem in the pacing of certain books in the series), and a good deal more beating to quarters and sneaking up on the enemy in disguise. Even Renzi, whom the author has turned into a general PITA, has a much better role this time, having been drafted as Colonial Secretary by General Baird, the leader of the expedition and the new Governor. Renzi was the only English civilian available with any education, it’s true, but he manages to do a pretty good job of it. It might even become a permanent job, which would allow to press his suit with Kydd’s patient sister, but—. (And that’s all I’ll say about that.) This is one of the best in the series so far. I only wish I knew what finally became of Therese and her guerilla father.


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