1793: the thunder of cannon fire echoes across the
English Channel, chilling the stoutest hearts . . .
The opening skirmishes of the French Revolutionary War send ageing frigate HMS Themis into waters swarming with enemy ships of the line. Instructed to survey the French coastline, she's soon in the thick of the action: cutlasses slash and bayonets skewer, cannons splinter decks and sever limbs. Onto the smoky deck strides young Lieutenant Charles Hayden.
With an English father and a French mother, the Admiralty are reluctant to give Hayden his first command. Instead, he is to act as a bulwark between the Themiss tyrannical Captain Hart and a mutinous crew. Steering a course between the cowardly captain and the treacherous crew, English common sense and French pride, Hayden must first master his wits before challenging the might of the French naval war machine.
As the streets of Paris are overrun with revolutionary fervour, England prepares for the inevitable war with France. Along the south coast, the Royal Navy readies its fleet and its most capable officers. Lieutenant Charles Hayden is a man of undeniable ability. The son of an Englishman, his allegiance to the English Crown is beyond dispute. But, with a French mother, and without any influence in the Admiralty, he is seemingly overlooked for his first commission as Master and Commander. Instead, he is posted to an ageing frigate, the Themis, under the command of Captain Josiah Hart, a man known throughout the service as 'Faint Hart'. When the Themis takes to sea to hunt the enemy, Lieutenant Hayden is immediately caught between a tyrannical captain and a crew pushed to the verge of mutiny. Disaffection turns to violence, and Hayden is torn between honour and duty, as the magnificent Royal Navy engages the French in a centuries-old struggle for power.