The Thirteen Gun Salute

thirteen-gun-saluteJack Aubrey is just beginning an assignment to take the Surprise to South America when he receives the good news that the Royal Navy wishes to reinstate him. And with that, he becomes captain of the Diana and is given the task of taking an envoy named Edward Fox to Pulo Prabang.

Much of this book, the thirteenth in Patrick O’Brian’s Aubrey/Maturin series, is uneventful. The crew of the Diana faces some complications on their journey, but they are trivial in comparison to the storms and fires and battles of previous assignments. Most of the drama relates to interpersonal dynamics on the ship and between nations. Fox is not a pleasant shipmate, seeing himself as above everyone else, a feeling that may very well have led to his doom by the end of the book. But his work, building an alliance with the sultan of Pulo Prabang, is important for strategic purposes. And fans of the series will see its dramatic significance when the traitor Andrew Wray turns up, working on behalf of the French.

This is one of the more episodic books in the series, and most of the pleasure comes from happy scenes: Jack getting news of his son Sam Panda, Stephen befriending an orangutan named Muong, Jack meeting the nephew of a former rival in battle. Some of the more dramatic moments, such as the conclusion of Wray’s story, take place off the page. But O’Brian includes a weirdly satisfying coda when it comes to Wray.

After this this relatively uncomplicated journey, the book concludes with the crew of the Diane in a serious situation, stranded on a small island, their ship destroyed in a storm. This makes me all the more eager to pick up the story in the next book, The Nutmeg of Consolation.

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6 Responses to The Thirteen Gun Salute

  1. Rebecca says:

    Have you read all of his Aubrey/Maturin books in the series? I think this one is number 13 in the series. I read the first, Master and Commander, and I loved it. Saw the movie and rolled my eyes.
    Rebecca @ The Portsmouth Review
    Follow me on Bloglovin’

    • Teresa says:

      I’m reading slowly through the whole series for the first time now. This is #13, so I’m more than halfway.

      I saw the movie before I starting reading the series and liked it well enough, but it doesn’t capture what’s charming about the books.

  2. I’ve never read any of these books but that cliffhanger ending really does sound intriguing!

    • Teresa says:

      If you’re tempted, this is a series to start from at the beginning. And I recommend reading the first two at least before deciding for sure. The second book is where I came to really enjoy it.

  3. Jenny says:

    I love it when you do these reviews! They always make me want to start the series over again. I belong to an Aubrey-Maturin Facebook group, and it’s wildly satisfying in this way.

    • Teresa says:

      I’m going to try to read of them more next year than I did this year, but we’ll see how that goes. So many bookish distractions! But it would be nice to get through the 5-volume circumnavigation cycle next year. And then I can wrap up the series the next year.

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