Cloves and nutmeg are indigenous to the Spice Islands of Eastern Indonesia. The book tells of the many uses of these exotic spices and the history of their trade over a period of more than 2000 years. It describes how the Spice trade into Europe came to be dominated by Middle Eastern and Venetian merchants. Backed by the Crowns of Portugal and Spain explorers such as Columbus, Vasco da Gama and Magellan dreamt of sailing directly to the Spice Islands. Much of the story is told through the lives of these historical characters, as well as Sir Francis Drake, Jan Pieterzoom Coen, Pierre Poive and others, lesser known but equally important. The story revolves around the intense rivalry between the Sultans of Ternate and Tidore, their relationship with the Portuguese, Spanish, Dutch and English who at different times occupied the Spice Islands.