Former naval officer Jack Vincent has been convicted of smuggling. He boards the prison ship H.M.S. Success, bound for a penal colony on Norfolk Island, to discover that the ship is commanded by his hated brother-in-law, Harry Anderson. He must find a way to escape his fate...
Vincent leads a mutiny, casting Anderson adrift, but a storm blows up. Success is wrecked and the only survivors are Vincent and two other convicts, Pat Cassidy and George Mason. Unfortunately, Anderson has also survived the storm...
Vincent and the other castaways find that a knife and a pistol are missing. Seeing a Maori using the knife to repair his canoe, they overpower him, but are themselves caught and taken to the village - as captives. Anderson, meanwhile, is recuperating on a small island before starting his pursuit.
A ship arrives: the Sea Wolf. Its captain, De Witt, is a jovial and unscrupulous trader who is planning to dupe the Maoris over the purchase of muskets. Vinvent, however, sees a chance for him and his companions to escape.
Vincent, Mason and Cassidy sail away from the Maori village on board the captured Sea Wolf. They have to realise, that they're not alone on this ship, when Li, De Witt's cook, appears on deck. As for Maru, he has been tricked into accompanying them. When Vincent explores De Witt's cabin, he finds vital information in his journal. Information that leads him to change the ship's course and head for a small island...
Their quest for the hidden pearls has led Vincent and his companions to the very island where Anderson is encamped with his men. They know where the pearls are hidden, but realise it is hidden right in the middle of Anderson's stockade. Vincent and Maru evolve an ingenious plan.
Vincent, wounded by a shot from Anderson, flees the island with Pat and the pearls. Back at sea they pick up two rather mysterious people from a small boat. While Vincent wonders how they came to be adrift in the Pacific, their actions become increasingly devious - and deadly.
Grindall has been killed in his attempt to murder Vincent and seize control of the Sea Wolf. Sovay is being saved from the prospect of being taken to the penal colony. Vincent finds her company very agreeable. She is fascinated by the pearls - and by the freedom that they represent.
The others are furious when Vincent returns to the Sea Wolf without the pearls. They make landfall at an island that Maru instinctively fears, and when Vincent goes hunting for game, he finds more than he bargained for. There's also an unexpected outcome for Maru, Mason, Pat and Li.
The Sea Wolf has been commandeered by the sinister Ben Frobisher, 'prophet' of his own invented gospel of 'Malachi'. Under the influence of Ben's hallucinogenic 'grog', Vincent betrays the others, leaving them marooned on Dragon Island while he sails off to spread the gospel with Frobisher...
The marooned Mason, Maru, Pat and Li see a chance of escape but run into deeper danger than before. Vincent is now free of Frobisher, but can he help them? Anderson has been taken of the island by Captain Beckett and his mania for vengeance is burning more fiercely than ever...
Maru returns home to find that his intuition is correct: his father has been killed by Haukino, the chief of the enemy tribe. Vincent and the others agree, reluctantly, to aid him in his revenge. Anderson, meanwhile, seeks Haukino's help in finding Vincent...