I found it a little slow to get going at first, and oddly disjointed in places. It has a habit of skipping the boring bits and going on to the next bit that's happening, which is fair enough - in a sea-going thing like this there's going to be a lot of just getting from A to B with not much happening. It just does it in a slightly odd way which took me a while to get used to. Instead of just saying "Nothing much happened for a bit" and then going on it tends to just leap forward over the gap and talk of what's happening now and just throw in a quick "nothing much happened since the last thing, did it" after the fact.
I enjoyed it anyway. It's a good yarn, and I expect if I were to read more of them I'd enjoy them too, not to mention find them easier going as I get more to grips with the naval terms used. Having one of the characters be a non-Navy chap on-board and learning them himself did help. Not entirely sure I sympathise entirely with any of the characters, though many of them are likeable, perhaps I like Stephen best. Jack Aubrey himself is just a bit too, something, flighty, over-enthusiastic, I don't know. And of course it's a bit short on women, but that's only to be expected. The historical detail I am told is fascinating and accurate: to me it simply pleased by being convincing and not too intrusive.
I feel like I'm damning with terribly faint praise here, but can't find anything more throughly positive to say. Still, I'd like to see the film some time. But maybe I should try and read the rest of the books up to and including the other one in the series that the film was based on first :-)