For all of Jack Aubrey's life he has triumphed, often sensationally, over the dangers of the sea and the violence of the enemy. But his rashness and his indiscretion have time and time again enabled his rivals to prevent him reaping his just rewards.
The nadir was reached in The Reverse of the Medal when, the victim of a skilful frame-up, he was convicted of fraud and struck off the Navy list just as he was coming within sight of flag rank. The subsequent exposure of the conspiracy, coupled with his brilliant success in command of a privateer, had brought him to a position where Their Lordships were more or less bound to reinstate him.
This, as the present story opens, they have done, and he and his old friend Dr Maturin are sailing on a secret mission with a hand-picked crew, most of them shipmates from the adventures and lucrative voyages of earlier years....