Rating: 8 out of 10
Allow me to confess to a bit of a deception here - the 7 rating which I so unkindly bestow upon this book is given in relation to the fact that it is the twentieth book in a series which I have greatly enjoyed, and whose other members, notably the first several but particularly the twelfth, earn far higher ranks. If you have not read any of Patrick O'Brien's works, go obtain Master and Commander right now, and read it.
At any rate, this book does not really live up to many of the earlier novels in this series, though it certainly keeps its head above water. It is disappointing only in that great things were certainly nascent within it, but do not materialize. Taken on its own merits, it is a fine read, and the pleasure of having Jack Aubrey and Stephen Maturin back for another tale is heart-felt.
You know, although I have to admire Mr. O'Brien's attempts to stick closely to the facts of the Napoleonic period, this novel is a work of fiction, for Chrissakes. He really should have brought our heroes more into focus with the tremendously exciting and important (though, in hindsight, of inescapable conclusion) events that occur during the 'Hundred Days' of Elba to Waterloo, rather than merely using them as frame and vague motivator for the ensuing battles 'gainst corsairs.After all, the earlier giants in this specific genre are the Horatio Hornblower novels, and although O'Briens best rank shoulder to shoulder with them, the Hornblower novels do not shirk from bending historical fact to suit dramatic need, at least in as far as the presence of fictional characters at historical events goes. I know what happened at Waterloo, and who was there, the same as I know what happened at Trafalgar. It would not disturb me in the least to read fiction that added some additional characters to those grand events.