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4.5 out of 5 stars67
4.5 out of 5 stars
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on 30 June 1999
A year ago I read "Master and Commander" and was impressed. A month ago I read "Post Captain" and was hooked. Now I've read eleven of the installments of what has to be one of the great novels of the century.
"The Fortune of War" is an epic, moving installment that works on many levels. Although a Yankee, I can't help but feel for Jack and the Brits as they try to salvage some honor from the War of 1812, a rather dishonorable war for all concerned. Who could fail to be moved by the image of the Constitution holding its fire rather than destroy the helpless Java? Or Captain Lawrence tipping his hat to Jack from the deck of the Chesapeake, only to be killed immediately afterward (O'Brian doesn't mention that it was Lawrence who said "Don't give up the Ship"). The battle scenes are thrilling but tinged with regret.
In order to fit Jack and Stephen into actual historical events O'Brian has to put them into the background, and we share their anguish as one British ship after another falls victim to the tiny but tough American navy. Remember, this is during the Napoleonic wars, and the Americans were effectively allied with the Hitler of that day.
This book was apparently written with Homer in mind. Jack and Stephen are unwilling participants in historical events, when all they really want to do is to go home, Jack to a new command (so he can come back and whip the Americans) and Stephen to deliver an important message to Sir Joseph. In between battles, shipwreck, near starvation, and certain execution, O'Brian finds time to consider timeless notions of duty, honor, loyalty and freedom.
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on 3 December 2001
I read this book translated in my language and i found it so interesting that i finished it in just one day. For one more time O'Brian's heroes act in land and sea and their adventures keep the interest of the reader up to the end of the book. The injury of the captain becomes the motive for a more detailed approach of the doctor's character and feelings, until action nails the reader again as is transferred from the foggy land to the open sea, where the writer unfolds for one more time his deep knowledge about seafights and battleships of the 19th century.
A very good book for a few pleasant hours of reading.
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on 23 October 1997
This is the sixth in the excellent series about a British Navy Captain and his friend the British Intelligence Agent but it is a little different from the previous novels. Steven Maturin the spy is definitely at center stage while Captain Aubrey mostly waits in the wings.
This book is therefore, by and large, a spy novel. After being captured with his friend by the U.S. Navy during the War of 1812, Maturin enveavours to keep the Americans from discovering that he is anything but a simple surgeon and naturalist. To make his life even more complicated, his lost love is also living in America and he struggles with his feelings toward her even as ruthless French agents seek him through the twisted streets of Boston.
But Captain Aubrey isn't entirely neglected. The English and American Navy are locked in a series of frigate battles and Aubrey and Maturin manage to be in the middle of two of them.
O'Brien upholds the outstanding reputation this series has garnered with another fine contribution.
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on 20 June 2010
A few years ago I read my first in this series, Master and Commander, I struggled a little with the depth of detail that O'Brian puts into his text. I recently re read it and believe that I have now slipped into the groove of O'Brians' stories. The detailed descriptions and atmosphere that he creates have now completely sucked me into the Napoleonic wars and the lives of Aubrey and Maturin along with their associates on land and at sea. O'Brian captures such an atmosphere in many of the actions herein that one could almost imagine him as a time traveller who had come to the future to tell us of these deeds of daring mixed with the complex personal lives of the prime characters. This book is just one out of the 7 I have so far read in the series, I can highly recommend any of these 7.
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on 5 March 2013
I saw "Master and Commander", I came across an O'Brian book, decided I wanted to read the series.
Have enjoyed the series.
The story lines are bit repetitive. (20+ books)
There is not a lot of 'action' in the books they are more 'drama' in their nature.
The stories are interwoven with a lot of information about animals and birds that at times can become too much of a good thing.
The stories are interwoven with a lot of information about the navy of the time that I found fascinating and not distracting. Apparently mutiny, within tightly specified protocols, was an accepted form of 'industrial action'
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on 20 July 2011
Although it's something we all have to simply accept as it's a feature of many of Patrick O'Brian's Aubrey-Maturin series, this book goes absolutely nowhere for around 120 pages, then - bang - it explodes. Jack and Stephen and some of the usual crew have a very strange stuttering journey across the Atlantic, but this part, being honest, is itty-bitty, but then, wow. Warfare, politics and espionage arrive on the pages in spectacular style.

What will bemuse and perhaps amuse us all, is the immense respect enemies have for each other in these tales (I can only think this must have been real, seeing as the author did his level to be authentic), and one second they are flinging deadly cannonballs and grape at each other, with swords and pikes ready at the nets, then after, it's all Port and Roast Beef in the Captain's cabin, enemy officers included.

I won't say too much indepth; I've realised that like me, many have come to the tales recently, via Russell Crowe's and Paul Bettany's brilliant bringing to life of Jack and Stephen, and so assuming that a 30 year old tale is already fully known is actually wrong, so no spoilers here. But I will say that as war exists between the US and Britain, the US sort of have France as an ally, but it is not a totally strong uniform alliance, and Jack and his people benefit from pockets of US resentment towards their supposed new allies against Britain.

If you are like me, then as the story progresses, you actually speed up your reading and race through the tense and deadly action sequences, in this book, far more than the previous books, the battles grab you and pull you into the pages. And afterwards, when the battles won or lost, if you have a strong urge to climb on your roof and check whether it is noon by any astronomical charts and appliances you may have to hand, then don't blame me, blame Patrick O'Brian.
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on 8 April 2014
Although these books are a series all involving the sea born adventures of Captain Jack Aubrey and his pal Stephen Maturin the ship's surgeon, they can also be read as stand alone stories.

Beware though as these are seriously addictive and I have bought and read each and everyone of the series and have read them in order.

Forget Hornblower, he is good but these are brilliant! Also don't be put off by Russel Crowe and "Master and Comander" the movie, which was an odd mash up of two of the books. Being an addict I enjoyed the film as well!
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on 10 January 2008
This novel continues from where the last left off - Jack and Stephen have arrived in Sumatra and are prepared for a leisurely trip home. Instead, before long, they find out that the Americans have declared war on Britain and eventually end up in Boston. The vast majority of the book is a land-based drama of espionage, heroic escape and romance - rounded off by some thrilling fighting at sea. This is not an abstract retelling of history, indeed actual history forms a very small part of the plot indeed. Look to 'Mauritius Command' for something of that kind.
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on 17 July 2012
I am SO disappointed that this title has been withdrawn from Kindle as I have only recently come to Patrick O'Brian and am absolutely hooked on his Aubrey/Maturin series! though oddly I am female... I hope it will not be too long before Amazon is satisfied with the quality of the download? (or maybe this title has just been quietly shelved...) The language in the novels is deliberately archaic and of its time, I guess, and I am wondering if the complainants do not appreciate this and think there is a problem...
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on 1 September 2014
Maybe I have just read too many of these in quick succession but it seems that each book now is shorter and lighter... I am still in awe of the creation of Jack Aubrey and Stephen Maturin, but here they seem to do less and we seem to have more of the 'notes' at the end to fill space? Apparently there are as many books again in the series, but I confess this is probably the last one I will read. Jack and Stephen are victorious: a good enough place to stop!
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