Book Review: Persephone by Julian Stockwin
Version: hard cover, advance copy
I'll be darned if Julian Stockwin hasn't done it again -- bested himself with his latest release in the Thomas Kydd series, Persephone. There's a little something for every reader in this volume: sea chase, age-of-sail battle, Napoleonic intrigue, imperial palace pomp, and romance. All nicely packaged in well-written historical fiction in around 400 pages.
Persephone is the name of Captain Sir Thomas Kydd's once spurned love interest of the past, and Kydd encounters her again while on station in Portugal trying to rescue the British from Lisbon and escort Portuguese royalty from the clutches of Napoleon and his Spanish allies. A spark of interest re-ignites between them, but they are forced apart by circumstances, only to be reintroduced once again on British soil. Kydd, the toast of England for his heroics in battle, has plenty of time to pursue her, but she appears to be out of reach. Meanwhile, Kydd inconsolable at his loss, returning to the sea and service of king and country, is sent to the site of his most recent conquest, Copenhagen, and then to follow a strange group of merchant ships protected by French sloops and a frigate, perhaps destined to invade the shores of Scotland or Ireland. They face uncertainty and dangers abound in pursuit, only to be surprised time and again -- including the final, biggest surprise of his life.
There is the romance of the sea and the romance between a couple, and Stockwin blends both seamlessly in this great tale of adventure. He deftly describes the relationship between Kydd and Persephone, their still stirring love interest yet the still unresolved conflicts from the past, setting up a hunt and seek chase that lasts through the book, almost as in a thriller. Packed in and around this theme flows the adventures of a naval hero doing his duty at sea and doing his duty on land, being paraded before the people as the hero of the hour and yet feeling the tug of life on board one his majesty's finest fighting frigates. There are battles aplenty, both at sea and on land, both military and political. And keep in mind, while many characters are fictional, others are based in history.
Stockwin's prose flows easily on the page, fluid with the magic of truth. You are transformed to the settings, knowing he has been there and seen that or gleaned parts from historical records. Dialogue is real, descriptions are vivid. The pacing is exciting. And having served in the Royal Navy, you know his battle narratives ring true. Many of Stockwin's characters recur from novel to novel, and one of my favorites is Stirk, who has been with Kydd from the beginning. One of those most stirring and realistic bits of dialogue is his near the end of the novel.
Persephone released as hardback in UK and as ebook and audio download in UK and the U.S. on May 18. It releases as hardback in U.S. in September. The link above is to the Book Depository, where hardback is available to order with free delivery worldwide. I think you will find it entertaining reading, wherever you are!