The Hornblower books were the original series of sea stories set in the Napoleonic Wars, that last great conflict of the Age of Sail. Many young people have read them and dreamed of adventures on the briny deep.
Mr. Midshipman Hornblower
Although the sixth Hornblower book to have been written, this is the first in the internal chronology of the series, introducing young Horatio Hornblower as a midshipman just joining the fleet and discovering the challenges of life as a navy officer.
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Although written relatively late in the publication of the Hornblower series, this book is the second in terms of internal chronology. Now a lieutenant, Hornblower must deal with a paranoiac captain who is making his ship into a hotbed of mutiny.
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Hornblower and the Hotspur
Although the third Hornblower book in terms of internal chronology, it is the last that Forester finished. Hornblower has just been promoted to master and commander, and he is ordered to join the Channel Fleet, blockading France.
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Hornblower and the Atropos
Although the fourth Hornblower book in terms of internal chronology, it was written well after many books set later in his career. After taking charge of the funeral procession for Lord Nelson on the River Thames, Hornblower heads for the Levant for an underwater salvage operation.
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Beat to Quarters
In the first Hornblower book ever written, Captain Hornblower is assigned to help a rebel against the Spanish Empire in Central America. However, he soon discovers that he is dealing with a madman.
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Ship of the Line
Trapped in a loveless marriage and tortured by jealousy when his commanding officer weds his true love, Hornblower seeks to forget by throwing himself into his duties in the Mediterranean. However this may be a fight he cannot win.
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Captured by the French and sentenced to die as a pirate, Hornblower must somehow escape and make his way back to the safety of England. However, he cannot abandon his wounded lieutenant, Bush.
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Hornblower gets no time to enjoy the accolades for his daring escape, for he is now off to the Baltic to fight French machinations there. He witnesses Napoleon's disastrous retreat from Moscow and helps provoke a Prussian uprising against the Corsican tyrant.
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Hornblower is sent by Lord St. Vincent to quell a mutiny on a ship that a tyrannical captain made into a living hell. In doing so, Hornblower ends up convincing a French port city to declare for Louis XVIII and the Bourbon restoration. But all is not yet well, and when Napoleon escapes from Elba and returns to Paris, Hornblower must lead a desperate resistance.
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Admiral Hornblower in the West Indies
This book deals with the close of Hornblower's career at sea. The year is 1821, nine years after Napoleon's defeat at Waterloo. Hornblower is sent to deal with pirates in the Carribbean, but discovers a plot by the Old Guard to restore Napoleon to the throne.
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Like many other very successful series, the Hornblower books have also spawned a number of companion books that allow fans of the series to explore in more depth the stories behind the stories. Take a look at them here.
If you enjoy the Hornblower books, you may also enjoy Patrick O'Brian's stories of Jack Aubrey and Stephen Maturin.
If you also enjoy science fiction, check out David Weber's Honor Harrington series, which has been described as "Hornblower in space."
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Last updated March 6, 2000