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I am back from vacation and have several reviews to post.  In order to get them all in before the end of the year, these reviews will be shorter than usual.  The first of my holiday reads was Patrick O’Brian’s HMS Surprise.

HMS Surprise picks up where Post Captain left off, with Jack Aubrey having been part of a squadron that captured four Spanish vessels laden with gold from the New World.  Unfortunately, a legal technicality sends the money to the King’s treasury rather than to the captains.  The same meeting that decides this also inadvertently reveals Stephen Maturin’s role as a spy.  He is captured on a mission in Spanish territory as a result, but Jack leads a daring rescue.  Upon returning to England,  Jack is arrested for debt but is released shortly thereafter when Stephen Maturin negotiates an advance on Jack’s smaller reward for the Spanish vessels.  Jack is given the command of the titular HMS Surprise, with the mission of delivering an envoy of the King to an island off the coast of India.  The envoy dies en route, Stephen is wounded in a duel, and Jack begins the long voyage home.  Along the way, he helps the British East India Company’s convoy fight off an attack by a French squadron, earning their gratitude and a generous financial reward.  This clears him of debt and sets the stage for his marriage to Sophia Williams.

I enjoyed this novel as much as the others in the Aubrey/Maturin series.  O’Brian depicts the life of a sailor in the Napoleonic era with realism and sincerity.  His action is exciting and his prose is incredibly vibrant.  It is difficult to offer specific praise or criticism of the individual novels in this series because the larger epic is constantly in mind.  That said, this is a book that is thoroughly enjoyable as an individual work. 

The Current Count:

72 Read, 28 To Go