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Norton's admirable attempt to achieve for O'Brian in this country at least some semblance of the success he has enjoyed in England continues apace with the release of this 13th adventure of Captain Jack Aubrey and his crew of British seamen during the Napoleonic Wars, in conjunction with trade paperback reprintings of two earlier books in the series (H.M.S. Surprise, The Mauritius Command). At this stage in his career, Aubrey commands the Surprise, a private man-of-war licensed to do battle with enemy warships on behalf of the Crown. He remains a man whose great capabilities and raw energy while at sea are often nullified by an inability to cope while on land, and so it is that captain and crew set sail most precipitously for South America after a lengthy stay ashore, at least in part so that Jack will make no social or political errors that might set back his efforts to be restored to the Royal Navy. Aboard as always is Dr. Stephen Maturin-- Aubrey's closest friend, ship's surgeon, and British spy--the character who provides an intellectual counterpoint to Jack's more physical presence. While the Surprise goes on its appointed rounds, however, Aubrey and Maturin undertake another assignment- -delivering a British envoy to the Malaysian Islands to negotiate a treaty there in competition with the French (a mission that, happily, requires that Jack's precious Navy rank be returned him). The story's the thing, of course, but the ultimate appeal of the Aubrey/Maturin adventures lies in O'Brian's delicious old- fashioned prose, the wonderfully complex sentences that capture the feel of the sea and the culture of the great warships, all the while sketching with apparent accuracy and truth the early- 19th-century world.
Pub Date: May 27th, 1991
ISBN: 0-393-02974-3
Page count: 320pp
Publisher: Norton
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15th, 1991


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