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Publisher's Summary

For the first time in Jack Aubrey's long, illustrious career, the sea, to which he had escaped with very little more than his dignity in tact, brings small solace to him because of his increasing despondency over debts and troubles at home.

Shoved into a temporary command in "that rotten old Worcester," Aubrey is off to the Mediterranean to join the Royal Navy's blockade of the French port of Toulon, where he will be dispatched by Admiral Harte (unfortunately the same Admiral Harte he cuckolded years ago) on a secret mission that promises to embroil Aubrey in political conflict. His friend Stephen's help notwithstanding, Aubrey faces some of the choppiest waters of his career.

This is the eighth book in O'Brian's 20-volume Aubrey/Maturin series.

Don't miss the rest of the Aubrey/Maturin series.
©1981 Patrick O'Brian (P)1994 Recorded Books, LLC

Critic Reviews

"Splendid adventures at a stately pace." (Kirkus)

What listeners say about The Ionian Mission

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  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars

The Ionian Mission

Although this is the first of the series to hit the doldrums, it's saved by humor on several levels, and the ending.

For the audio version, Patrick Tull aids its salvation. After a slow start, Tull brings more and more dramatic presence into each successive novel. He truly hits his stride here.

Other pluses include a more thorough use of Steven's near incurable ignorance of naval matters as our window into that complex, jargon filled Age of Sail world.

Then again, if you have not already found yourself saying “Top Gallants and Royals, if you please,” to express the need for haste, and urging people to finish something before it's abaft - even if those phrases don't answer - then you probably have not made it this far.

8 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars

Part of a bigger tale

One more of POB's books that starts off slow, real slow, and stayed there. But it's about a blockade. The most boring mission you could hope not to get. It did pick up at the end. But we all know if you are reading this review, your going to get the book anyway. Just like me. I thought it was interesting to see how politics in the Near East hasn't changed much.

7 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

The Ionian Mission

This story was less dramatic than the prior books. Mostly they were on blockade which I gather from the book is boring for the crew. I did enjoy all the extra information O'Brian provided about the ships, sailing and the Royal Navy in the early 1800's late 1790s. Patrick Tull did an fantastic job narrating the story. Felt the ending was abrupt, wish there was more follow up of what happened after the battle. But maybe that comes in the next book.

4 people found this helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

...a plucking apart, a worrying to death.

"But he had not seen a more wicked and as it were spiteful sea, with its steep, close-packed waves -- a sea that threatened not the instant annihilation of the great antarctic monsters but a plucking apart, a worrying to death."
- Patrick O'Brian, The Ionian Mission

Probably my least favorite in the series so far. It was destined to happen. Even the best instruments will see their strings get loose after a few weeks on the water. It is still lovely and has some amazing parts, but this is not the book I would hand someone to get them hooked on Aubrey/Maturin novels. That said, I loved the poetry contest, was glad to see the good captain and doctor playing again, found the Ottoman politics, and naval blockade strategy interesting.

In a previous review I talked about one of the things that allowed the novels to remain fresh was a change in setting. I still think this is one of the biggest components that allows O'Brian to write book after book about the British Navy during the Napoleonic wars without being too repetitious. However, this book reminded me of another thing O'Brian does -- he changes ships quite often. It is like seeing Mozart play on different types of instruments. The song might not change that much, and it might be still a recognizable Mozart tune, but hearing different instruments keeps everything fairly fresh.

All that said, I would probably have given this a simple 3 stars, had the last bit, the final brutal act, not been so beautifully staged. Reading the last 40 pages of this novel was like watching the first twenty minutes of Saving Private Ryan. I'm not saying they are similar in brutality, only similar in resonance. You exit the action and wonder how anyone could craft something so sharp and hard. That is the dilemma I think in writing or filming war (even naval war) books and movies. So much of actual war is (to borrow a phrase that has almost become a cliché in describing modern war, piloting, etc.) "months of boredom punctuated by moments of extreme terror." THAT is the challenge for O'Brian with this book in particular. I think he was trying, in a literary fashion, to SHOW the reader that. 95 percent of the book was a naval blockade. It wasn't sexy. There was the weather, yes. But characters were almost dying from boredom. And. Then. Action!!!

11 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Run away to navy, the 19th century British navy

Another great sea faring adventure ! O'brian captures the listener on the first page and never lets go til the last shot is fired. Patrick Tull as always brings the story to life like no other narrator can, he is the voice of Maturin and Aubrey.

1 person found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

One of the Best

Aubrey and Maturin in their prime. Even the lesser characters are great. The reading is flawless, a revelation. The accents are perfect. The battle scene is one of my favorites in all of literature, it's unforgettable. Just get it.

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What a yarn

What a great tale. The eastern med in the days of the Ottoman Empire, and Jack and Stephen in the thick of it.

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    4 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

Great battle scenes and character development.

Return of many beloved characters like Moet, Pullings and Babbington. But the ending feels super abrupt. There was a mission, but not really a story here. Neither Jack nor Stephen really had a character arc. They didn't really have a heroes journey this time. Things just sort of happen, then it's over. Entertaining, though.

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Bloody Hell!!!

The Aubrey/Maturin Series is Rapidly becoming a Favorite of mine... And Patrick Tull just Carries the Story Away! I find it difficult not to rush on to the next book. Steady As She Goes! Fire As Yer Guns Bear!

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

A bit of a letdown after the preceding few books

I found this book to be a bit of a let down after books 5, 6 and 7 (Desolation Island, The Fortune of War, and The Surgeon’s Mate). There was a lot more uninteresting verbiage in this book surrounding a few good action scenes. I admit to not quite seeing why this series is as popular as it is as I find there are large stretches of very uninteresting dialogue that concerns irrelevant things. That said, there is enough in this series to keep reading. In this book, Jack and Stephen are assigned to an old ship and head to take part in a naval blockade in the Mediterranean Sea. The book covers a lot of humdrum stuff connected with that, then they almost engage a French fleet, but it escapes. Jack’s old ship then needs to go in for an overhaul and he gets his old Surprise back. Then he is sent on a mission in the Ionian Sea in the hope of intervening in an inter-Turkish dispute to advance Britain’s cause. The book concludes very abruptly after Jack wins a pitched naval battle against a Turkish commander. I find Patrick Tull to be a frustrating reader. He has a mostly very slow cadence but will occasionally speed up for certain phrases. My solution is to play him at 1.5x speed.