Age of Sail / Book Series / Jack Aubrey / Main Character / Nautical Fiction / Patrick Obrian / Royal Navy / Stephen Maturin

The Ionian Mission, by Patrick O’Brian

This is the eight book in the Aubrey/Maturin series of nautical fiction novels by Patrick O’Brian. Captain Jack Aubrey has been given the Worcester, a ship of the line of 1842 tons, and is to sail her to The Mediterranean to join the British Naval blockade off Toulon commanded by Admiral Thornton. HMS Worchester is a rotten ship – she was one of the “Forty Thieves” – a group of 40 notorious English-built ships that had been beset by corruption, incompetence, and bad workmanship at the yards building them.

Jack’s job was to take this bad ship – one everyone knew was bad – into the tough blockade duty, facing the rough seas and storms of the Mediterranean. However, aside from a chance encounter with a French man-of-war that triggers a brief but extremely colorful battle, there is little excitement as HMS Worcester settles in with the other blockading ships, some with crews showing signs of strain from remaining constantly alert but inactive.

However, a sudden turn of events takes him and Stephen off on a hazardous and delicate mission to the Greek Islands – The Ionian Mission – in another ship, the frigate HMS Surprise, which he holds so enormously dear. There all his old skills of seamanship and his proverbial luck when fighting against odds come triumphantly into their own. Captain Aubrey is soon caught in a complex net of Turkish politics and rivalries. And while Admiral Harte seems to offer all reasonable backing for the mission, Aubrey knows that should he fail, the admiral would like nothing better than to throw him to the dogs.

But Lucky Jack Aubrey once again emerges as the victor! After a long engagement the Surprise’s crew board and take the Turkish ships Kitabi and Torgud, leaving the Torgud sinking and the Kitabi a prisoner. The Ionian Mission is a wonderful historical fiction novel and a great nautical tale.


“O’Brian is one author who can put a spark of character into the sawdust of time, and The Ionian Mission is another rattling good yarn.”—Stephen Vaughan, The Observer

“O’Brian’s books are as atypical of conventional sea stories as Conrad’s. Like John LeCarré, he has erased the boundary separating a debased genre from ’serious’ fiction. O’Brian is a novelist, pure and simple, one of the best we have.”—Mark Horowitz, Los Angeles Times Book Review

“They’re funny, they’re exciting, they’re informative…There are legions of us who gladly ship out time and time again under Captain Aubrey.”—The New Yorker