Captains of the Renown (Tween Sea and Shore)
The second in the Tween Sea and Shore series, Captains of the Renown follows the exploits of several characters connected to the eponymous 18th-century British warship. They include a Lowland Scottish captain, an aristocratic English one, the sometime ship’s carpenter, some Frenchmen who served on the opposing vessels in the ship’s engagements in the Seven Years’ War, and all of these men’s wives, one of whom was a French expat in England. Starting with the repair of the former French warship la Renommée, captured in the earlier Anglo-French war and renamed the Renown, the story shows the characters during the renewed fighting in the late 1750s.
Unfortunately, I found the writing in this novel to be overdone and heavy on “telling” rather than showing. It was a difficult novel to get into and to continue reading. Stockman provides the characters’ exact emotional states and the moral reasoning behind their actions, including after perfectly clear dialogue, in a way that is redundant and tiresome. Sentences are poorly constructed. The dialogue includes too much formal exposition, stating facts about the setting that the characters themselves should have known, along with overly obvious statements of their motivational reasoning. All the characters speak this way.
It’s unfortunate that this novel’s writing is poor because the premise—looking at the Age of Sail even-handedly from multiple perspectives, sympathetic to each and to the naval experience above all—is a great one. The book’s virtue is that it refuses to pick a side. I found myself wishing that it could have been better executed.
As it is, I can’t recommend Captains of the Renown. Readers interested in a fictional treatment of the Seven Years’ War or the Age of Sail should look elsewhere.