Dancing bears and loons that fancy themselves teapots? No, number two in the series is not a typical Aubrey/Maturin adventure, yet it is perhaps better than the first!
While book one, Master & Commander
, was about war and friendship, the second book, Post Captain
enters the love arena, and friendship is put to the test. Of course war is not forgotten, this is a historical fiction series set during the Napoleonic Wars after all. The career of our hero Captain Jack Aubrey of the Royal Navy intertwines with his unlikely friend's, an Irish/Catalan surgeon, natural philosopher and spy named Stephen Maturin. In this volume, containing one of the most ludicrous episodes in their adventures, the two must navigate the dangerous waters of the Peace of Amiens, which ceases hostilities for all of Europe...just not for Aubrey and Maturin.
If you survived book one's interminable explanations of naval terminology and are willing to give Patrick O'Brian a second chance, you'll be rewarded by the second book's smoother, more balanced plotting. The man's writing is worth your effort (and patience if you're not into the subject matter). He's been called the Jane Austen of his genre and that complimentary comparison is no more apparent than in Post Captain
. With the Peace, Aubrey and Maturin find themselves back on land and prey to debt collectors and a predatory woman trying to find suitable victims husbands for her very Bennet-esque family of all marriage-aged young women. A love triangle ensues that would be at home in any of Austen's Something and Something
Woman do not play a huge role in the series, but a much larger one than might be assumed in books about naval warfare. Often they are in the background, off-stage if you will, influencing the actions of the principle characters, but when women do take the stage, they know their lines. O'Brian fleshes them out well, imbuing them with spines and brains, or a lack thereof when appropriate. They come alive and stand as well-rounded as the men.
If you've migrated to this series for its entertaining action, sea battles, technically correct descriptions of sailing, worry not! Some of the subject matter (even Aubrey's ship itself!) is a touch unorthodox, but there's still enough of what you came for and I doubt you'll be disappointed in continuing on with this very satisfying series.
My review of book one, Master and Commander
My review of book three, HMS Surprise