Betrayal is the 13th book in the Kydd series by Julian Stockwin.
The year is 1806 and Captain Kydd was just helped capture and defend the Dutch colony of Cape Town (chronicled in Conquest). With the French driven from the seas, the only thing Kydd can look forward to is protecting trade and being forgotten by the Admiralty on a far flung corner of Empire.
Kydd’s commanding officer, Admiral Popham has other ideas though. With the forces used to capture Cape Town at his disposal, he proposes an assault on the undefended Spanish possessions in South America. Winning over Kydd to his side, Popham believes that all the English have to do is land on the mainland, capture Buenos Aires and the locals will rise up and throw off the yoke of Spanish rule but can a few hundred British soldiers and sailors really capture the greatest prize of Empire?
As the fleet sets sail, Kydd struggles with the decision to abandon his station and follow a man whose motives seems to become more suspect and actions become more underhand the closer they get to their destination.
As the British task force lands on the Spanish Mainland they must deal with the local Spanish troops as well as belligerent locals but the prize is so great that nothing will stop them in their quest.
With no British warships able to navigate the River Plate, Kydd is tasked with with defending the British force with whatever crafts and men he can muster and as the enemy draw closer, Kydd finds himself increasingly under pressure to hold them back. Kydd knows that if they can’t not hold on until reinforcements arrive then they could lose everything they have gained and from being Heroes of Empire they could end up facing a court martial for disobeying orders. Such are the fine margins of high command.
I have been a fan of Julian Stockwin’s books since ‘Kydd’ was released in 2001 but as with any long running series I have found myself struggling to enjoy the last couple of books. In a similar vein to the Sharpe novels you sort of feel that you have read the book before and feel a bit stale. Well I’m happy to report that Betrayal is a real return to form.
This is a cracking story and I think using a little known episode of the Napoleonic wars gives it freshness that has been missing from the last couple of books. One of the joys of the whole series has been seeing Kydd grow from a pressed landman into a full post-Captain and learning the ropes of command as he goes along. In Betrayal he really comes into his own as he commands the ad-hoc naval forces and is tasked with opening up Buenos Aires to trade.
Stockwin captures the dilemmas of men in high command in the age of the sail, months away from political and military chiefs they must make decisions on the spur of the moment that could bring greater glory to the Empire or just as easily see them disgraced and dismissed from service.
I raced though this book and as always Stockwin’s writing style is easy to read and has a nice pace to the story and in all Stockwin’s books the naval details are spot on without being over technical thus slowing the story down. This is a very good book and I highly recommend!
Betrayal is released in October 2012.