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The Wine-Dark Sea (Aubrey & Maturin #16)

4.37 of 5 stars 4.37  ·  rating details  ·  4,268 ratings  ·  117 reviews
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 light the revolutionary tinder of South America to relieve the pressure on the British government.
Unknown Binding, 308 pages
Published September 1st 1997 by Not Avail (first published 1993)
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It says something about O'Brian's writing that, despite having a SPOILERIFIC description here on Goodreads, the initial portion of the novel - with the strange behavior of the sea causing everyone concern and dread, a slow build-up to the big reveal - still had power and beauty, even if I had been robbed of the suspense.

The middle of the series seemed to lag, but the last third has been strong and constantly on the upswing. Even though there are repetitious details (innate to series), the charac
As I stagger past the 3/4 mark of this enormous series of books I am struck by the observation that I am more interested in Maturin than Aubrey. Really though, it's being more interested in what's going on on land than on ship - which is the complete opposite of what I would have said in the first quarter of the series.


See the complete review here:
Better; much better. Still did a ten-page data dump before starting the story, but at least there was a story.

Good characterization. The Peruvian excursion was a welcome diversion. Volcanoes, icebergs and shipwrecks, oh my.

A recurring theme is hubris, with various characters often counting on favorable outcomes only to have the cold water of reality dashed in their face.
Not to read a handful of the Aubry books is to miss visiting one of the most thoroughly realized and absorbing imaginary worlds in all of English literature. O'Brian may not be as essential to life as Shakespeare, but he makes life richer by far.
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Another in the series of Aubrey Maturin books that I just finished. I love this series but I found this book to be the most uninteresting of the series so far. Not sure why, it just seemed a story that didn't go anyplace nad maybe its because Jack and Stephen need to get back to their wives in England and stop running into trouble in the South Pacific and South America. I do still give it 3 stars because even though the story wasn't as good as past ones, I still enjoyed the writing and the reali ...more
Jun 12, 2008 Philip rated it 5 of 5 stars
Shelves: sea
The first book by O'Brian that I read -- or 12 pages anyway. Then I put the book down, went back to the bookstore and bought the first five books in his Aubrey/Maturin series. A whole new world of pleasure opened up fifteen years ago that still satisfies today.

My favorite section of the book narrates Stephen Maturin's journey across the high Andes of Peru in the company of a naturalist of Incan descent.
Lots of action in this one: a volcanic eruption, pirates, gales, lightning, icebergs, broadsides and chases. Wonderful book, even with the relatively dull section when Stephen is on his own in Peru.

My favorite scene is when Jack and a small crew arrive in the harbour after days in a small boat, nearly dead from exposure and dehydration, and Tom Pullings very nearly does not recognize them.
Alex Sarll
I have, this past month or so, been haunted by the guanaco - a wild cousin to the llama of which I had previously been unaware, but which suddenly started popping up everywhere. And true to form, the South American sections here contain a surprising quantity of guanaco action. Not that coincidental camelids are the book's chief charm, which as ever resides in the delightful pairing of bluff Jack Aubrey (good cheer, naval heroism, terrible puns) and Stephen Maturin (surgeon, natural philosopher, ...more
A return to form, in most respects, largely occasioned by O'Brian's lighting on a new theme, one that bids fair to carry him through the rest of the series--at least I hope so. It's a bit surprising he hadn't hit on it before this, but for the first time in the series, the undercurrent to the Aubrey-Maturin story is age and loss. One of Austen's characters in Persuasion remarks on how a life at sea ages a man horribly. Given all their adventures and misadventures (captures, multiple maroonings, ...more
While I enjoyed this story, for the most part, I felt like I missed quite a few things, mainly because I was listening to it, rather than reading. For the rest of the books in this series I think I will have to skip them on audio and pull out the old paperbacks.

Enjoyed the exchanges between Stephen/Jack and also Jack and his son. And I have to say that I'm glad I am not a invited aboard the Surprise for a meal. To date, they have not served anything I would relish sinking my teeth into! Such exo
Richard E.
Series Overview.

I fell in love with the series from the opening scene of Master and Commander, and went on to read all 20 Aubrey-Maturin novels. The characters of Jack Aubrey and Dr. Stephen Maturin were initialized in that opening scene, and grew through the entire series. This is the best historical fiction I have read. In the series, I learned about British, French, Dutch, and Spanish naval operations during the Napoleonic wars. I also first learned of Napoleon's command and espionage structu
Duncan Mandel
SUMMARY: At the outset of this adventure filled with disaster and delight, Jack Aubrey and Stephen Maturin pursue a heavy American privateer through the Great South Sea. The strange color of the ocean water reminds Stephen of Homer's famous description, but it also portends a spectacular submarine volcanic eruption that will create a new island overnight and leave an indelible impression on the reader's imagination. Their ship, the Surprise, is now also a privateer, the better to escape diplomat ...more
This book has a bit of it all in the series. From political intrigue and revolution plots to action packed moments of near catastrophy on the lee shore of a glacier, it moves the series along at a welcome clip. This is especially welcome after the ill will brewing aboard ship in previous book (The Truelove). Capt. Aubrey's hard nosed working of the crew proves successful in turning the tides of competition and rancor for a woman as the novel begins. His fortunes shine once again in the form of p ...more
Somewhere around book 14, the pace of these books seemed to slow down. I almost gave up with the series somewhere in the first third of Clarissa Oakes, but I'm glad I persevered. While The Wine Dark Sea doesn't have the intensity or excitement of some of the earlier books, it was a great improvement on the previous installment- with a couple of brisk engagements at sea, and Stephen back to his "great game". However, by the end, I was feeling a great deal of empathy for Jack and Stephen's wearine ...more
I know it's common belief that the Aubrey-Maturin series declines in quality in the later books, but I enjoyed this one very much. The tone has shifted, without a doubt--setbacks are more deeply felt as a sense of mortality begins to hang over the characters, who are no longer at all young. But there are some thrilling sections--Stephen's trip over the Andes is very good, and the naval chase amongst a maze of icebergs is beautifully, tensely written. Jack's son, Father Sam Panda, is a really won ...more

"No. Harking back to this voyage, I think it was a failure upon the whole, and a costly failure." (261)
I'm not sure this is an advisable way to end a book--especially a book which, in my opinion, had more downs than ups. I really enjoyed the beginning of this one, with a plot point that was different from anything Aubrey and Maturin have experienced on other voyages (and it's a good thing this point comes up early in the novel, since Geoff Hunt's cover illustration gives it away).

But then...oh,

Somewhere in here I've got a boilerplate review of the Aubrey/Maturin adventures, where I made the point that it seems as unfair—and certainly pointless—to discuss the particulars of anyone book in the series as it would be to rate individual chapters in a novel.

This book, then, is really Chapter 16 in a 20-chapter, 5000-page, epic that takes out two heroes and a cast of supporting characters to every corner of the globe, blasting away at the dastardly French, crossing swords with pirates, pres
This isn't the best of the Aubrey-Maturin series because it lacks the clear story arc of most of the books. Making their way to Peru from the the Polynesian island that was the location for The Truelove, the shipmates are whacked by a volcanic eruption. The book ends with the Surprise de-masted by lightening and rudderless due to a close call with an iceberg. In between, Stephen has an Andean adventure, losing some toes in the bargain while Jack suffers serious wounds boarding a prize. Yet, O'Br ...more
Patrick O'Brian places a lot of the action of this book aboard ship on the high seas. Aubrey and Maturin are once more sailing their favorite ship, the "Surprise", in South American coastal waters, seizing a rogue French privateer operating without letter of marque, and another ship actually flying the pirate flag. Some of this takes place with dangerous seas churned up by an undersea volcanic eruption. Stephen's spy skills are put to the test when he goes ashore in Peru to assist insurrection a ...more
EJD Dignan
Repeated from review of Book 1

That Patrick O'Brian chose to place his characters on the sea in the not so distant past just raised the hurdle I had to leap to get to know this wonderful author.

I had never been enamored with sea stories, didn't much care for European history, and yet was wonderfully taken with this series. The sea is a major character, but history is not greatly illuminated, almost a backdrop to the specific circumstance the characters find themselves in. Which perhaps reflects t
Gilly McGillicuddy
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Chris Gager
I just picked this up at the local library but I have to finish "The Black Tower" first. I saw "Master and Commander" a few years ago a loved it and have Mr. O'Brian on my "to-read" list. Maybe I'll "cheat" and read a few pages tonight.

Wednesday morning... I finally got started last night. The writing is excellent of course. I've gone from one great English genre writer(P.D. James) to another. All the nautical jargon is a hoot and mostly indecipherable to me even though I know a bit about sailin
ANNOTATION: At the outset of this adventure filled with disaster and delight, Jack Aubrey and Stephen Maturin pursue a heavy American privateer through the Great South Sea. The strange color of the ocean water reminds Stephen of Homer's famous description, but it also portends a spectacular submarine volcanic eruption that will create a new island overnight and leave an indelible impression on the reader's imagination. Their ship, the Surprise, is now also a privateer, the better to escape diplo ...more
This one, for me, was a genuine slog in places. Heavens forbid, but either I'm getting tired of reading the Aubreiad or at this point in his career O'Brian was getting tired of writing them. I mentioned in an earlier review that it's very hard to get me to care about Stephen's political doings, and a South American setting is also a hard sell for me, so combining the two, and having minimal JA in this book, made it very much my least favorite so far. (Note that "least favorite" O'Brian still get ...more
One of the blurbs on the back of my library copy of this book says that the pleasures of this series "defy enumeration", and that is so, so true. The richly researched historical setting, the quiet/smart humor, the truly amazing characters, the stylish writing, the exciting stories... This installment is a more rousing, swashbuckling adventure full of excitement than #15, which was a more character-driven tale, and it is a wonderful one, at that. I loved Stephen hiking the high Andes, the pirate ...more
Among the pleasures of this volume was the tour of the high altitudes of Peru and of their particular flora and fauna. Stephen Maturin examines condors first hand, and bromeliads, and three kinds of llamas. Adventures include Maturin's party being sideswiped by a sudden blizzard, and Jack Aubrey being seriously wounded in the eye and leg. Even though I barely follow the political events that inform Stephen's espionage missions, Stephen survives through his wits, and with very helpful allies, and ...more
I really enjoyed this installment, but not as much as other novels in the series. I think it's because nothing really happens. OK, a lot happens, but no significant plot development. This is surprising, as the ship has finally reached the destination where Stephen can fulfill the commission he received three books ago. The book, however, is more notable for its unusual weather: a lightning strike; a blizzard in the Andes; a volcano. As always, there is the interesting human element -- including, ...more
Barry Wightman
Early 19th century British sea power (wasn't that a band?), cellos, violins, bromance, the great Cordillera and Cape Horn. Yes, there are the slow bits but, damn, it's a rip-roaring read. Love this stuff.

(My third or fourth O'Brian...)
Christopher H.
This novel concludes the arc begun in the 13th book in the Aubrey-Maturin series, The Thirteen Gun Salute and continues with The Nutmeg of Consolation, and The Truelove. This is an exciting addition to O'Brian's canon, loaded with intrigue and action. A volcanic eruption at sea, an encounter with black-flag pirates, and scientific exploration in the high Andes mountains in Peru and Chile, a trip around Cape Horn and fighting with a heavy American frigate all conspire to Jack Aubrey and Stephen M ...more
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Patrick O'Brian's acclaimed Aubrey/Maturin series of historical novels has been described as "a masterpiece" (David Mamet, New York Times), "addictively readable" (Patrick T. Reardon, Chicago Tribune), and "the best historical novels ever written" (Richard Snow, New York Times Book Review), which "should have been on those lists of the greatest novels of the 20th century" (George Will).

Set in the
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Other Books in the Series

Aubrey & Maturin (1 - 10 of 21 books)
  • Master and Commander (Aubrey/Maturin, #1)
  • Post Captain (Aubrey/Maturin, #2)
  • H.M.S. Surprise (Aubrey/Maturin, #3)
  • The Mauritius Command (Aubrey/Maturin, #4)
  • Desolation Island (Aubrey/Maturin, #5)
  • The Fortune of War (Aubrey/Maturin, #6)
  • The Surgeon's Mate (Aubrey/Maturin, #7)
  • The Ionian Mission (Aubrey/Maturin, #8)
  • Treason's Harbour (Aubrey/Maturin #9)
  • The Far Side of the World (Aubrey/Maturin, #10)
Master and Commander (Aubrey/Maturin, #1) H.M.S. Surprise (Aubrey/Maturin, #3) Post Captain (Aubrey/Maturin, #2) The Mauritius Command (Aubrey/Maturin, #4) Desolation Island (Aubrey/Maturin, #5)

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“For my own part,' said Captain Aubrey, 'I have no notion of disliking a man for his beliefs, above all if he was born with them. I find I can get along very well with Jews or even...' The P of Papists was already formed, and the word was obliged to come out as Pindoos.” 7 likes
“He had known it often enough. A delightful child, even a delightful early adolescent, interested in everything, alive,affectionate, would turn into a thick, heavy, stupid brute and never recover: ageing men would become wholly self-centered, indifferent to those who had been their friends, avaricious” 2 likes
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