This is easily the best story since Tom Kydd gained promotion to the quarterdeck, and one I can happily recommend. But I’ve given other books in the series higher ratings.
The source of Kydd’s characterization weakness is his weak character–ambitious, clever, capable, and bright, to be sure, but he’s a shallow guy. This is a bit of a mystery to me, actually; his sister Cecilia’s only an occasional character in the series, but seems far more rounded. Renzi, on the other hand, is a dreadfully drawn abstraction, as I’ve complained before.
Stockwin’s dialogue, which he obviously works hard to get “right,” is unnecessarily distracting. Renzi’s odd constructions are particularly annoying, even if apparently authentic for his class and intellectual background.
There’s more story here than the earlier LT reviewers seem to acknowledge. For maybe the fourth time in the series, Kydd takes stock of his life and decides to gain control of his destiny. This time the effort seems more convincing, though I confess it’s a bit rushed. He has a serious intellectual disagreement with Renzi; before they’ve mainly disagreed about social issues, with Renzi pretty much an unquestioned conscience on morality (except when he goes silly on us). The encounter with Robert Fulton is both entertaining and frustrating, and a fairly convincing portrait.
This review was originally published on LibraryThing.