I read all of Patrick O'brian's high seas series. They were so captivating that I hated to reach the end. Another good series was Hyperion.
This book has plenty to offer with political intrigue, Naturalist wonders and on-ship trials.
Stephen must deviously compete for the Malay Sultan's attention and good favour, against the already entrenched French envoy, in order to successfully negotiate a treaty between the Sultan and the English King. As these French envoys are Stephen's particular hated enemies, his need for success is both personal as well as professional. In this land, Stephen encounters scenic wonders, as well as plants and animals that truely amaze him; the orangutan being one. Shipboard, "The Diane" encounters shoals and foul weather.
This book would be a 5+ except for the poor narration by Patrick Tull. Patrick's own strong accent makes it difficult to impossible, for a lot of the book, to distinguish between narration and characters, and between one character and another. Stephen, Jack, and the many other characters in the book sound much the same, much of the time. This was perhaps the most annoying aspect of the narration, but also at times his narration trails off into barely audible muffled words; an example being when Stephen was apologizing to Jack at one point. In moderately noisy areas such as on a residential street it was impossible to hear him at times and on streets with traffic, I had to be adjusting volume up and down continously. I haven't had this problem with any of the other books in this series with other narrators. His pace also seems slow and rambling at times, which made some parts of the book 'a struggle'. At times I felt like abondoning this book, but the storyline kept me going.
I would recommend any other narrator, but in particular you won't go too far wrong with either Simon Vance, or Tim Piggott-Smith. Both are great narrators, and Tim, in particular, has a very wonderful range and consistency in his characters' voices. Mostly I've purchased books with Simon Vance as narrator, and have enjoyed them thoroughly.
All these books in the series are great fun but after having to listen to a couple of them read by Mr Tull I have to give up. I miss Simon Vance's reading. He brought Aubrey to life to such an extent that I would rather not hear as different performance as the one given by Patrick Tull.
Patrick Tull is a great narrator but his Irish shows far to often and his frequent dramatic pauses do not, in my mind, do Maturin or Aubrey justice. I will happily by other books performed by Tull but for me this series demands the booming voice of Vance. I love the books but will finish it in paper or find a source of Vance performances for the rest.
Have it read by Simon Vance
He is unbearable to listen to as his odd pauses and total lack of voice changes between characters force him to ad the "he said" and "she said" at the end of every spoken word.
The book itself was great, as usual for o'brian
Overall, I have enjoyed the Aubrey/Maturin series. The glue that held it together was Vance's narration, with his clear change in voices and wonderful reading. Narration has changed with this book, and Patrick Tull does not come close to measuring up. Very little distinguishing of characters in voice, and his reading is often broken up with pauses that make listening rather tedious, and sometimes downright boring.