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Horatio Hornblower was not the only famous literary hero to fight during the Napoleonic Wars.
What is the Aubrey-Maturin series about?
The Aubrey-Maturin series is an internationally acclaimed nautical historical/war series set during the Napoleonic Wars written by English novelist Patrick O’Brian.
The story takes us back to the early 19th century with Captain Jack Aubrey of the Royal Navy and his friend Stephen Maturin, the ship’s surgeon who also is an intelligence agent. From one side of the Earth to the other, Aubrey and Maturin are living dangerous nautical adventures, fighting the French and other enemies.
The first book in the Aubrey–Maturin series has been adapted as a movie titled Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World starring Russell Crowe as Jack Aubrey and Paul Bettany as Dr. Stephen Maturin.
How to read The Aubrey-Maturin Books in Order?
- Master and Commander – 1800s. Britain’s Nelson leads Navy against Napoleon’s France. Captain Jack Aubrey, newly promoted to old, slow HMS Sophie, is a brave and gifted seaman, his thirst for adventure and victory immense. Aided by friend and skilled ship surgeon Stephen Maturin, Aubrey and crew win clashes, finally hopelessly outmatched by a mighty Spanish frigate.
- Post Captain – In 1803 Napoleon smashes the Peace of Amiens, and Captain Jack Aubrey, R. N., taking refuge in France from his creditors, is interned. He escapes from France, from debtors’ prison, and from a possible mutiny, and pursues his quarry straight into the mouth of a French-held harbor.
- HMS Surprise – Captain Jack Aubrey attempts to hold his ground against admirals, colleagues, and the enemy, and accepts a commission to convey a British ambassador to the East Indies. The voyage leads him and his friend Stephen Maturin to the strange sights and smells of the Indian subcontinent, and through the archipelago of Spice Islands where the French have a near-overwhelming local superiority.
- The Mauritius Command – Captain Jack Aubrey is ashore on half pay without a command―until Stephen Maturin arrives with secret orders for Aubrey to take a frigate to the Cape of Good Hope under a commodore’s pennant, there to mount an expedition against the French-held islands of Mauritius and La Réunion. But the difficulties of carrying out his orders are compounded by two of his own captains―Lord Clonfert, a pleasure-seeking dilettante, and Captain Corbett, whose severity pushes his crew to the verge of mutiny.
- Desolation Island – Commissioned to rescue Governor Bligh of Bounty fame, Captain Jack Aubrey and Stephen Maturin sail the Leopard to Australia with a hold full of convicts. Among them is a beautiful and dangerous spy―and a treacherous disease that decimates the crew. With a Dutch man-of-war to windward, the undermanned, outgunned Leopard sails for her life into the freezing waters of the Antarctic, where, in mountain seas, the Dutchman closes…
- The Fortune of War – Captain Jack Aubrey, R. N., arrives in the Dutch East Indies to find himself appointed to the command of the fastest and best-armed frigate in the Navy. He and his friend Stephen Maturin take passage for England in a dispatch vessel. But the War of 1812 breaks out while they are en route. Bloody actions precipitate them both into new and unexpected scenes where Stephen’s past activities as a secret agent return on him with a vengeance.
- The Surgeon’s Mate – Jack Aubrey and Stephen Maturin are ordered home by dispatch vessel to bring the news of their latest victory to the government. But Maturin is a marked man for the havoc he has wrought in the French intelligence network in the New World, and the attention of two privateers soon becomes menacing.
- The Ionian Mission – Jack Aubrey and Stephen Maturin return to the seas where they first sailed as shipmates. But Jack is now a senior captain commanding a line-of-battle ship in the Royal Navy’s blockade of Toulon, and this is a longer, harder, colder war than the dashing frigate actions of his early days. A sudden turn of events takes him and Stephen off on a hazardous mission to the Greek Islands…
- Treason’s Harbour – While Captain Aubrey worries about repairs to his ship, Stephen Maturin assumes the center stage for the dockyards and salons of Malta are alive with Napoleon’s agents, and the admiralty’s intelligence network is compromised. Maturin’s cunning is the sole bulwark against sabotage of Aubrey’s daring mission.
- The Far Side of the World – The war of 1812 continues, and Jack Aubrey sets course for Cape Horn on a mission after his own heart: intercepting a powerful American frigate outward bound to play havoc with the British whaling trade. Stephen Maturin has fish of his own to fry in the world of secret intelligence. Disaster in various guises awaits them in the Great South Sea and in the far reaches of the Pacific.
- The Reverse of the Medal – Captain Jack Aubrey, ashore after a successful cruise, is persuaded by a casual acquaintance to make certain investments in the City. This innocent decision ensnares him in the London criminal underground and in government espionage―the province of his friend Stephen Maturin.
- The Letter of Marque – Captain Jack Aubrey has been struck off the list of post-captains for a crime he did not commit. Stephen Maturin has bought for Aubrey his former ship the Surprise to command as a privateer, more politely termed a letter of marque. Together they sail on a desperate mission against the French, which, if successful, may redeem Aubrey from the private hell of his disgrace.
- The Thirteen Gun Salute – Captain Jack Aubrey sets sail for the South China Sea with a new lease on life. Following his dismissal from the Royal Navy, he has earned reinstatement through his daring exploits as a privateer. Now he is to shepherd Stephen Maturin on a diplomatic mission to prevent links between Bonaparte and the Malay princes which would put English merchant shipping at risk.
- The Nutmeg of Consolation – Shipwrecked on a remote island in the Dutch East Indies, Captain Aubrey, Stephen Maturin, and the crew of the Diane fashion a schooner from the wreck. A vicious attack by Malay pirates is repulsed, but the makeshift vessel burns, and they are truly marooned.
- The Truelove (Clarissa Oakes in the UK) – A British whaler has been captured by an ambitious chief in the sandwich islands at French instigation, and Captain Aubrey is dispatched with the Surprise to restore order. But stowed away in the cable-tier is an escaped female convict. To the officers, Clarissa Harvill is an object of awkward courtliness and dangerous jealousies. Only Aubrey’s friend, Dr. Stephen Maturin, can fathom Clarissa’s secrets.
- The Wine-Dark Sea – Jack Aubrey and Stephen Maturin pursue an American privateer through the Great South Sea. Their ship, the Surprise, is now also a privateer, the better to escape diplomatic complications from Stephen’s mission, which is to ignite the revolutionary tinder of South America.
- The Commodore – Having survived a long and desperate adventure in the Great South Sea, Captain Jack Aubrey and Stephen Maturin return to England to very different circumstances. For Jack it is a happy homecoming, at least initially, but for Stephen it is disastrous: his little daughter appears to be autistic, incapable of speech or contact, while his wife, Diana, unable to bear this situation, has disappeared, her house being looked after by the widowed Clarissa Oakes.
- The Yellow Admiral – Jack Aubrey, now a considerable though impoverished landowner, has dimmed his prospects at the Admiralty by his erratic voting as a Member of Parliament; he is feuding with his neighbor, a man with strong Navy connections; he is on even worse terms with his wife, Sophie. Even Jack’s exploits at sea turn sour. Worst of all, in the spring of 1814, peace breaks out, and this feeds into Jack’s private fears for his career.
- The Hundred Days – Napoleon, escaped from Elba, pursues his enemies across Europe like a vengeful phoenix. In the Balkans, a horde of Muslim mercenaries is gathering. They are inclined toward Napoleon because of his conversion to Islam during the Egyptian campaign, but they will not move without a shipment of gold ingots which, according to British intelligence, is on its way via camel caravan to the coast of North Africa. It is this gold that Jack Aubrey and Stephen Maturin must at all costs intercept. The fate of Europe hinges on their desperate mission.
- Blue at the Mizzen – Napoleon has been defeated at Waterloo, and the ensuing peace brings with it both the desertion of nearly half of Captain Aubrey’s crew and the sudden dimming of Aubrey’s career prospects in a peacetime navy. When the Surprise is nearly sunk on her way to South America―where Aubrey and Stephen Maturin are to help Chile assert her independence from Spain―the delay occasioned by repairs reaps a harvest of strange consequences.
- The Final Unfinished Voyage of Jack Aubrey – Blue at the Mizzen ended with Jack Aubrey getting the news, in Chile, of his elevation to flag rank: Rear Admiral of the Blue Squadron, with orders to sail to the South Africa station. The next novel, unfinished and untitled at the time of the author’s death, would have been the chronicle of that mission, and much else besides. The three chapters left on O’Brian’s desk are presented here both in printed version-including his corrections to the typescript-and a facsimile of his manuscript, which goes several pages beyond the end of the typescript to include a duel between Stephen Maturin and an impertinent officer who is courting his fiancée.
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This article was last updated on October 12, 2022.