Just when you thought you’d had enough of this series, around the time the man hating tattooed Polynesian gals who sailed the sea looking to deprive men of their manhood with obsidian knives showed up in The Far Side of the World, and you were positively starved for some heroic naval action, you probably gave a heavy sigh when you read the description of this book. You have also probably read of Thomas Cochrane’s career – the actual Royal Navy Captain who inspired O’Brian’s Jack - and were wincing, knowing what was coming.
Buy this book. Read it, listen to it, find some way to insert it into your brain by any manner you prefer. Despite the pain, the anguish, and the infuriating forces aligned against Aubrey, this book has the most moving scene of the series. As one O’Brian reviewer once put it, “I will not say I cried, but I will not say I did not.”
Good, consistent voice work combined with in depth research on all the major players.
For the sheer volume of material I would recommend it to anyone who wishes a work of very broad scope.
The true revelation of the book was how deeply people's feelings ran for one another and were expressed in prosaic emotional terms that made correspondence among many professional colleagues appear, by our standards, to be effusive and eloquent love letters. Personal connections mattered to these men in ways we either do not feel or cannot express to one another today.
Perhaps this is due to what was available to the author but constant references to Lincoln's penchant and gift for storytelling made me want to hear more of these stories. I craved more specific examples of how his narrative abilities helped him manage situations. Then again, perhaps the author did too. There was one technical problem where a lengthy passage is repeated (Grant's Vicksburg campaign). Finally this lengthy work appeared to drift at times especially toward the end.
The uncanny resemblance of Jim Bond's voice to Jack Webb - who began in radio - threw me there for a minute as visions of Dragnet rather than our collection of Sword of Truth characters came to mind. I grew accustomed to it though and focused more on Terry Goodkind's problem with over-writing and poor grammar. He tells a good story though and I enjoyed the book. His plots knit together nicely, build tension superbly, feature terrific action sequences and he doesn't leave dangling loose ends or tells the truth too soon. I know it would be better if we had one, great narrator throughout, as we do with Patrick Tull and the Patrick O'Brian Aubrey/Maturin naval novels - all twenty of them - but that's rare and Tull was gifted. After you've spend 34 hours with one narrator a different one will, almost by definition, seem jarring and awful to you. Don't fret. Bond is just fine and, before you know it, the story takes over.
Although this is the first of the series to hit the doldrums, it's saved by humor on several levels, and the ending.
For the audio version, Patrick Tull aids its salvation. After a slow start, Tull brings more and more dramatic presence into each successive novel. He truly hits his stride here.
Other pluses include a more thorough use of Steven's near incurable ignorance of naval matters as our window into that complex, jargon filled Age of Sail world.
Then again, if you have not already found yourself saying “Top Gallants and Royals, if you please,” to express the need for haste, and urging people to finish something before it's abaft - even if those phrases don't answer - then you probably have not made it this far.
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