From the moment that Master and Commander, the first of Patrick O'Brian's sequence of 20 novels about the 19th century British Royal Navy officer Jack Aubrey and his surgeon colleague Stephen Maturin, was published in 1970, critics hailed his work as a masterpiece of historical recreation. Called "the best historical novels ever written" by the New York Times, the books have sold millions of copies. This first full-color illustrated companion to the Aubrey-Maturin series, timed to coincide with the release of the blockbuster Twentieth-Century Fox film adaptation starring Russell Crowe, explains the fascinating physical details of Jack Aubrey's fictional world. An in-depth historical reference, it brings to life the political, cultural, and physical setting of O'Brian's novels. Annotated drawings, paintings, and diagrams reveal the complex parts of a ship and its rigging, weaponry, crew quarters and duties, below-deck conditions, and fighting tactics, while maps illustrate the location featured in each novel.
Interestingly, this is not a book about the geopolitical history of the era nor of the famous naval battles since only three actions are covered (1 fleet engagement, 1 amphibious landing, & 1 frigate engagement). Moreso, the majority of the text details the life of the sailors, the organization, and the culture of the Royal Navy. Throughout the book, there are references to the Aubrey/Maturin series and how the character Jack Aubrey fits into this world.
While perhaps a little derivative of other works out there, this is a fairly good read for those needing a more accessible introduction to the Royal Navy in the Napoleonic Era. My only gripe about the text is that it ends somewhat abruptly. The final chapter describes crimes and punishments in the Royal Navy, including pirates and privateers, but then the narrative goes no further and there's no conclusion to wrap things up.