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Here is the seventh of twenty novels in a series of adventures in historical / naval fiction that inspired the movie Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World. As in the other books, this one views the Napoleonic wars from the eyes of experienced Royal Navy Captain Lucky Jack Aubrey, and his best friend, ships surgeon and intelligence officer, Dr. Stephen Maturin. The action picks up where The Fortune of War left off, with the pair escaping from the hostile American navy, along with the woman who has repeatedly broken Stephens heart.
The furious pursuit of the other man in Dianas life a very dangerous American named Johnson puts a thrill into the opening pages of this book. But soon, even more dangerous adventures are afoot, including an attempt to make a heavily fortified, and strategically important, island switch sides in the war; a thrilling chase through the stormy waters of the English channel; and imprisonment in a crumbling tower in Paris where Stephens dangerous past catches up to him.
If you have read other books from this series, you will have come to expect a winning combination of historical detail, fascinating character development, highly charged suspense, sizzling intrigue, electrifying action, humor, romantic longings, tragedy, and social satire. In each of the books, there are pages of philosophical reflection, passages of captivating poetry, scenes of shocking violence, and clever tricks of warfare that will make you gape with wonder. Plus, you always learn something about natural history, arts and humanities, and the theory and practice of sailing a ship of war. This book more than lives up to those expectations.
An author who can write “page-turningly” about all these things can be no less than a Renaissance Manand this book is a Renaissance Book. It could be used as a history textbook or even a course of study in great English literature. As if you care, when you are surrounded by the thunder and smoke of a roaring broadside, sailing blind in a storm over a lee shore, or sweating through the interrogation of a suspected spy. I warrant that this is one of those books that acts like a time machine, putting you right in the middle of the scrapes, escapes, and escapades.
Since I got to the point quickly, I believe there is enough space for a tantalizing quote:
“There you are, Stephen,” he cried. “Good morning to you. I did not look to see you yet awhile, and I am sorry to say I have ate the last of the bacon. The dish was empty before I was aware.””It is always the same old squalid tale,” said Stephen. “May I at least hope there is a tint of coffee left?”
“Had you shown a leg sooner, you would have saved your bacon,” said Jack. “Ha, ha, ha, Stephen: did you hear that? Saved your bacon: it came to me in a flash.”
“Sure there is nothing like spontaneous wit,” said Stephen: and after a pause.”