Book Review: Inferno by Julian Stockwin
Inferno wasn't what I thought it would be. Author Julian Stockwin broke some expectations with this novel, but when I got to thinking about it, his decisions to break them were sensible. In the end, I was pleased.
Inferno is the seventeenth novel in the Thomas Kydd series, which has been an age-of-sail series about a British naval hero's rise from seaman class to captaincy and knighthood. They are tales of adventure as well as tales of personal experiences based on historical moments, which result from precise research. Thus, I was looking for another tale of Captain Sir Thomas Kydd doing great daring deeds.
However, the Thomas Kydd series is also about Britain's struggle against Napoleon's attempt to conquer all of Europe. And Inferno hewed true to that story line, involving Kydd but not focusing on him. In fact, other than that Kydd appeared at the beginning and end of the story, and briefly in the middle, this book was hardly about him at all.
Inferno really is a tale about Britain's struggle to keep Napoleon from closing the European commercial market to them and uniting with Russia to seize all of Europe's navies to finally beat the British Navy, which commanded the seas. Between defeating them on the sea and defeating them economically, this would have meant Napoleon finally conquering Britain, which was all that stood in Napoleon's way of world domination.
Central to Napoleon's plan was working with Russia to take the Danish navy, and Britain had a brilliant plan to ask the Danish government to temporarily hand over their navy to Britain to deny Napoleon the key final piece of his plan. But the Danish king wouldn't hear of it. Even when British soldiers landed and surrounded the capital of Copenhagen and threatened to reduce it to rubble.
Stockwin's brilliance is in using historical detail to bring authenticity to his stories, and he does so in Inferno. You will thoroughly understand both sides of the dilemma and the horror of this battle from this story. It is a riveting tale told through the eyes of his characters, involving both fictional and real people from those times.
While I will admit to being disappointed initially that this wasn't much of a Kydd story, I came to admire Inferno for being a fine piece of well-crafted historical fiction told in the Thomas Kydd universe. Kydd and Kydd characters do show up from time to time in the story, and Kydd fans can enjoy that while enjoying Stockwin's attention to detail and being true to history.