I really enjoyed this installment of the Aubrey-Maturin series. Once you get in to the novel it's a very interesting blow by blow of a relatively short naval campaign to gain the Mauritius Islands for Britain. I've read several works which address pitched fleet actions in the era, but chronacles of naval campaigns such as this one are more rare. Aubrey and Maturin have to deal with naval and land combat, as well as intelligence concerns, while dealing at the same time from issues caused by other British officers. I highly enjoyed this book.
I look at this book more as O'Brian's foundation to introduce plotlines in lager books than anything else, but there are still some interesting plots in this book. There is really only 1 major naval combat in this book, but it has a decent amount of action and suspense. A large section of the book, as the title hints at, deals with Aubrey's ship being marooned a while on an Island. It's not some sort of Robinson Crusoe/Swiss Family Robinson tale that I thought it would be, most of the focus is on the seamanship used to nurse a damaged ship to safety. If you are reading this series mostly to read about ship-to-ship action this book will be a bit slower for you, but there are a lot of of plot threads that will be picked-up again in later books, especially English and American tensions prior to the war of 1812.
I'd give the book 5 stars if I would have gotten the Patrick Tull naration. Simon Vance, though not bad by any measure, couldn't match Patrick Tull's narration of the series for me. The book itself is one of the best of the series. It is filled with suspense and action throughout. The main characters face personal and professional challenges that define their character again and again. This is a book where the reader gets a real feel for the characters of Jack Aubrey and Dr. Maturin at a greater level than in the first 2 books. The beloved HMS Surprise is also introduced, a ship that comes back into the series again and again. An excellent book.
It would have been hard to match the sea battles and action of Master and Commander. I'm not a huge fan of Jane Austin type writing, so the beginning of the book, with it's emphasis on courtship and social life, felt a bit slow...but the relationships created are of great importance later in the series. The novel is great though at showing what a roller coaster ride the career of a naval officer can be. Aubrey, riding so high in the previous book, has a series of dramitic ups and downs. For those who favor naval action, the later part of the book does not disappoint, with a suspense-filled cutting-out expedition and a a creditable, though brief account of a fleet action.
I'm on book 18 of this series now and have decided to review what I've listened to so far. In the first hour or so I didn't think I'd like this book. It seemed to start slow and the older-sounding reader wasn't what I visualized as the voice of the young, adventurous captain (commander). After the characters got to sea though everything fell into place. Patrick Tull turned-out to be an excellent narator...he is great at giving unique voices for the different characters. The action starts flowing thick and fast, and Dr. Matruin is a great stand-in for the reader who is not a naval expert. Explanations given to the doctor help you understand a lot more of what is going-on...though it's still nice to have wikipedia handy to look-up terms. If you are interested in naval combat in the age of sail/napoleonic age then this book is a must have. What I especially like about this series is that it shows the imperfections of the characters and the age and doesn't just draw a black and white heroic epic. The only negatives I have on this book is that (1) it starts a bit slow and (2) you really need to go beyond the first book to really appreciate the characters and the story. All in all, this is a great book for those who love war at sea in the age of sail.
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