his is the second of a two-book set, which began in The Golden Ocean. As you remember, this all settles around the mission (in reality) of Commodore Anston who attempted to sail a small ill-equipped, manned and supplied squadron around the tip of South America, facing a month of storms, scurvy, and death. Even when they did get into the Pacific ocean, there was very little of the planned raiding of Spanish possessions (read that as “none”). No, they wandered west, looking for the Manila Galleon (which they desperately defeated). All the English sailors went home immensely rich. All except for those aboard the ship Wager, which went aground on a lee shore in the middle of nowhere in what is now Chile. And there they rotted and mutinied and killed each other (and, stupidly, natives who could have helped them). Eventually two parties managed to get back home, as detailed in an earlier book review of mine, The Wager.
So this was the fictionalization of two young lads (very much like the first book, a practical one and a strange one) who experience what their real-world counterparts did. It was pretty well-written (for early Patrick O’Brian) but it’s sea battles you are looking for, there are none here, just a shipwreck followed by pages and pages of misery. Yes, I know that the survivors went through hell but I’ll admit that the group from the Wager that our protagonists were with (who went with Indians north along the Chilean coast until they could surrender to the Spanish) was a bit tedious (what with the many ways to describe starvation, cold, and backtracking). Also, there was no hint at all when they returned home of the court battles that faced them (as the two groups argued about if there was a mutiny or not). It was all good court corruption and press battles and all that, but fully left out of the book. Oh well. I’m just glad they got home.
So, if you did find The Golden Ocean somewhere and enjoyed it, this is a good companion book for it. You’ll learn things, reading this. Like why it’s good to live in 2023 and not 1740.