Fiction. Historical Fiction. HTML: When Napoleon escapes from Elba, the fate of Europe hinges on a desperate mission: Stephen Maturin must ferret out the French dictator's secret link to the powers of Islam, and Jack Aubrey must destroy it. Like a vengeful phoenix, Napoleon pursues his enemies across Europe. If he can corner the British and Prussians before their Russian and Austrian allies arrive, his genius will lead the French armies to triumph at Waterloo. In the Balkans, preparing a thrust northwards into Central Europe to block the Russians and Austrians, a horde of Muslim mercenaries is gathering in support of Napoleon. However, they will not move without a shipment of gold ingots from Sheik Ibn Hazm, which, according to British intelligence, is on its way via camel caravan to the coast of North Africa. It is this gold that Aubrey and Maturin must intercept at all costs. The colorful historical backdrop, engaging plot, and memorable characters make this nineteenth Aubrey-Maturin adventure a must-listen..
I'd be curious as to why he made some of the choices he did in this book. This might inspire me to look at one of his bios.
BUT all that said, O'Brian was still writing well here and I don't think this is so much a case of growing tired of his creations as wanting to settle some scores with the reader and some of his characters before the story ended.
-- how O'Brian shows that warfare is changing through preemptive strikes
-- the thrilling lion hunt
-- the precarious nature of being named a Dey in
-- the importance of money in warfare, both in buying mercenaries, and in doling out prizes
-- the politics of the admiralty, and how Jack gets lucky again
As the story begins, Dr. Stephen Maturin had briefly left the squadron to bury his wife, Diana, after she died in a carriage accident. O’Brian had foreshadowed this in The Yellow Admiral, but it still feels shocking to have so familiar a character die. Maturin throws himself into his intelligence work, relishing the opportunity to stop Napoleon once and for all. Admiral Lord Keith gives Commodore Jack Aubrey new orders to stop the gold from making its way to Napoleon and to convince any French captains he meets to join the side of Louis XVIII. Along with the expected sea maneuvers, O’Brian further examines the nature of luck as Killick accidentally breaks Maturin’s narwhal horn, which the crew held to bring the luck of a unicorn horn. Maturin himself is full in his grief, seeming at times a different character, but the regularity of sea life helps him to find some familiarity in which to recover.
By land, O’Brian uses Maturin to examine the different loyalties of the Muslim leaders regarding the Sunni-Shiite divide and how Napoleon worked to take advantage of it to gain allies, while a trip to meet the local Dey, Omar Pasha, provides some land-based action. Maturin studies the local fauna, gains the necessary intelligence, but worries if it will be actionable when a sirocco wind coming off the land delays either the Surprise or its tender, the Ringle, from returning for him. Fortunately, he makes it in time and brings Aubrey the intelligence and they make a plan to intercept a xebec carrying the gold in the Strait of Gibraltar. The battle goes on for days with Barrett Bonden dying in the first blow, adding yet another shocking death as Bonden had been with Jack’s crew since the first book, Master and Commander. The Surprise and her crew manage to capture the xebec and all its gold, learning on their return to Gibraltar that Napoleon was defeated in the Low Countries and the war is over. Jack now heads off on his mission to Chile.
With The Hundred Days, O’Brian brings the Napoleonic Wars to a close. The series began during the War of the Second Coalition, a war many of the European monarchies fought against revolutionary France, which in turn led to the War of the Third Coalition under Napoleon, who also fought the Wars of the Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, and Seventh Coalitions. O’Brian uses Aubrey to comment on the fact that the period was marked by twenty years of almost constant war with few interruptions. He also demonstrates a great deal of narrative maturity in this novel, for while many members of Aubrey’s ships’ companies had died during the course of the series, the death of Diana and Bonden stand out for the large role they played in Aubrey and Maturin’s lives. The Hundred Days further offers a bit of a look back, with the crew visiting Gibraltar and Port Mahon in Minorca, showing what has changed or remained the same since the events of Master and Commander. This nineteenth novel is easily one of the strongest books in the Aubrey-Maturin series. This Folio Society edition reprints the original text with insets containing historical portraits and sketches to illustrate some of the scenes and maps of the Mediterranean coast on the endpapers.