It is the dawn of the nineteenth century; Britain is at war with Napoleon's France. Jack Aubrey, a young lieutenant in Nelson's navy, is promoted to command of H.M.S. Sophie?, an old, slow brig unlikely to make his fortune. But Captain Aubrey is a brave and gifted seaman, his thirst for adventure and victory immense. With the aid of his friend Stephen Maturin, ship's surgeon and secret intelligence agent, Aubrey and his crew engage in one thrilling battle after another, their journey culminating in a stunning clash with a mighty Spanish frigate against whose guns and manpower the tiny Sophie is hopelessly outmatched.