At the opening of a voyage filled with disaster and delight, Jack Aubrey and Stephen Maturin are in pursuit of a privateer sailing under American colours through the Great South Sea. Stephen's objective is to set the revolutionary tinder of South America ablaze to relieve the pressure on the British government which, already engaged in a death-struggle with a Europe dominated by Napoleon, has blundered into war with the young and uncomfortably vigorous United States. The shock and barbarity of the hand-to-hand fighting are sharpened by O'Brian's exact sense of period, his eye for landscape, and his feel for a ship under sail. His thrilling descriptions of hair-raising bloody actions make the listener grateful that he is watching from a distance.
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