Saturday, December 30, 2017

The Baltic Prize: Number Nineteen Is Another Winner!

Book Review: The Baltic Prize by Julian Stockwin
Version: Author furnished ebook

If you have read this review blog for long you know I am a huge fan of Julian Stockwin’s Thomas Kydd age-of-sail series. The Baltic Prize is the nineteenth adventure in that series, and after two slight twists to his successful format in Inferno and Persephone, Stockwin returns to its roots in a stirring tale of conflict and battle at sea. A return well done!

Stockwin’s stock in trade is historical fiction, basing his stories on detailed research and bringing that detail to his stories. For that reason, Inferno was more about the siege of Copenhagen and the failed negotiation to "borrow" the Danish Navy and less about the sea adventure. It was a necessary diversion, which brought us to this next tale. In The Baltic Prize, he returns us to the waters off the coast of Denmark, where the Danes hold the choking point of islands that secure the waters of the Baltic Sea.

In 1808 Napoleon has taken over most of Europe and cut off Britain’s economic ties to most of the continent. Once ally Russia has now joined forces with Napoleon, cutting off access to the continent from the north. It leaves only Sweden as their ally. Britain’s access to Swedish ports must be through the Baltic Sea, and the Danes have a score to settle with Britain after the burning of their capital and the taking of their navy.

With that as a backdrop, The Baltic Prize sets up for a challenge to France, Russia, and Denmark as Britain organizes a new naval squadron to ally with Sweden, which is under attack by Russia, to defend the Baltic route to the continent, and Captain Sir Thomas Kydd and his heralded frigate Tyger are among the fleet. Their charge is to defend the British merchant fleet trying to reach European ports. Their challenges are French privateers that raid the merchant ships at will, a newly built fleet of Danish gunboats that resourcefully go after both merchant ships and British naval ships caught dead in failing winds, and an increasingly more aggressive Russian Navy looking to stake a claim to Swedish ports.

Increasing the challenge is an erratic Swedish king and his now untrustworthy navy, not to mention a British general who insists on ticking off the king. It’s always something, isn’t it?

We find Kydd and the Tyger crew getting plumb assignments hunting down privateers, taking on gunboats, and seeking out the hiding places of sneaky “Ruskies”, with daring skirmishes and dangerous raids. Kydd must not only warily track his opponents, but he finds he must tread difficult waters among his colleagues, many of whom are jealous of his rise in position and he suspects of sabotaging his missions.

And always in the back of Kydd’s mind as he manages a life of danger at sea is his beloved Persephone, whom he has married and left back in England to manage their new estate.

As always with Stockwin’s stories, the characters are engaging, the story is full of exciting action, and much of the story is real, based on historical research. You learn about history as you enjoy a rousing tale. And as with every Kydd tale, I couldn’t put the book down once I started reading. In my book, number nineteen -- The Baltic Prize -- is another winner!

I read this as an ebook, but it's available in U.S. and Canada beginning January 2, 2018.

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