"In length the series is unique; in quality—and there is not a weak link in the chain—it cannot but be ranked with the best of twentieth century historical novels."—T. J. Binyon, Independent Captain Jack Aubrey sets sail for the South China Sea with a new lease on life. Following his dismissal from the Royal Navy (a false accusation), he has earned reinstatement through his daring exploits as a privateer, brilliantly chronicled in The Letter of Marque. Now he is to shepherd Stephen Maturin—his friend, ship's surgeon, and sometimes intelligence agent—on a diplomatic mission to prevent links between Bonaparte and the Malay princes which would put English merchant shipping at risk. The journey of the Diane encompasses a great and satisfying diversity of adventures. Maturin climbs the Thousand Steps of the sacred crater of the orangutans; a killer typhoon catches Aubrey and his crew trying to work the Diane off a reef; and in the barbaric court of Pulo Prabang a classic duel of intelligence agents unfolds: the French envoys, well entrenched in the Sultan's good graces, against the savage cunning of Stephen Maturin.