In this 12th installment of the beloved Aubrey-Maturin series, Patrick O'Brian has created another tale of great narrative power.
©1988 Patrick O'Brian; (P)2006 Blackstone Audio Inc.
"A splendid saga." (Los Angeles Times Book Review)
"If Jane Austen wrote Royal Navy yarns, they might read like this....The early-19th-century locations are fascinating, as are the evocation of period shipboard life....Seafarers and landlubbers alike will enjoy this swift, witty tale of money and love." (Publishers Weekly)
"The author has created two wonderfully contrasting characters in bluff, hearty Aubrey and reedy, intellectual Maturin. Readers will be glad to see these unlikely friends in action again. An exciting sea story with good character development." (Library Journal)
Due to the couple of poor reviews of the Simon Vance version I thought this might be a good opportunity to check out the Patrick Tull narration of this book which received some good reviews.
Frankly I’m shocked by the couple of bad reviews of the Simon Vance version. Letter of the Marque (Simon Vance version) is one of the most rewarding books I have listened to so far in the Aubrey-Maturin Series (perhaps THE most rewarding book I have listened to).
However this book does not stand on its own. I could understand someone perhaps picking this up a few months or more after reading or listening to the previous book (book 11: The Reverse of the Medal) and being slightly less enthusiastic. Letter of the Marque (book 12) is the excellent conclusion to the saga of Jack Aubrey and his troubles with the Navy. What’s more, Letter of the Marque is the exciting (climatic) wrap-up of the troubles between Stephen Maturin and Diana Villiers. PATRICK O’BRIAN DOES NOT DISAPPOINT.
A note on Patrick Tull vs Simon Vance. Due to the couple of poor reviews of the Simon Vance version I did decide to switch to Patrick Tull and purchased his narration. But after three chapters I stopped listening to the Patrick Tull and purchased the Simon Vance version. Simon Vance is the unequivocal master of multiple voices. Each character has a completely unique voice of his/her own as if you were listening to a movie. And each voice is read not only with complete individuality, but with a distinct depth of emotion (you really feel that you’re getting to know each individual). I found Patrick Tull to be more two-dimensional and wooden in his performance as compared to Simon Vance. In all fairness I think it probably comes down to who you are used to (I’ve had about 10 books under my belt with Simon Vance prior to that).
Bottom line advice: If you are starting the series, start with Simon Vance. If you are continuing the series stay with the narrator you know (although it’s hard not to strongly recommend the Vance versions because they are so good). With regard to the book itself, if it’s been awhile since you’ve read the series, I might recommend re-reading book 11 (The Reverse of the Medal) just before starting Letter of the Marque since Marque is written as a grand conclusion to it and prior books. You will not be disappointed with this book. Audible is a wonderful company for making these great works possible in such an accessible format for today’s technology (I listen on my iPhone everyday on the treadmill at the gym).
In general I do like Simon Vance. But since I've heard--more than once--all the Aubrey-Maturin novels with the, ahem, other reader, I expect I'm really quite prejudiced.
This book was a wonderful continuation of this series. It resoved some of the pieces left from the previous books quite handily and sets up the next book quite well. There were interesting battles and wonderful moments with the hands, new and old. Other figures from past books made cameo appearances and the story moved along at a fast pace. I've quite enjoyed all of these books but I thought this one was a bit better than the previous book. The narrator was wonderful as well, with consistency between voices for every character from book to book.
Very reliable continuation of the series. I love the language and evocation of this period.
Vance is always outstanding, one of the two or three best readers.
It's pretty amazing, when you think of it, that O'Brian can make the Napoleonic war at sea so dull. Not so in his other books. I'm a fan of Patrick O'Brian, and his other books are wonderful. In Letter of Marque, though, nothing happens for the first quarter of the book. Then you get to the second quarter, where nothing happens also. In the third quarter, Jack Aubrey sets sail for a distant location where he hopes to find an enemy ship. Sail, sail, sail. Aubrey and Maturin talk a lot. The crew eat a lot of flying fish. The ship gets painted. There's high drama when one of the crew comes down with an impacted wisdom tooth. Then more sailing, sailing, sailing. No engagements. No battles. Finally in the last quarter of the book, they meet the ship they were sailing to meet. And take her. You were expecting a rousing sea battle? So was I . But no. They take her by surprise. There is a boarding party skirmish, but this is dispensed with in less than two minutes of narration. Really. That's it for the action. Back to the impacted wisdom tooth and more boredom. It's hard to believe this is the same Patrick O'Brian who wrote the stirring, emotionally involving other books in this series. I'd regret giving away the punchline in this review, except that there is no punchline. Nothing happens. The book is a great soporific though.
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