Tuesday, 8 April 2014

The Maharajah's General by Paul Fraser Collard

review by Maryom

After fighting in the Crimea - under one alias - Jack Lark is heading to India under another. In the filthy army hospital after the Battle of the Alma, Jack recovered from his battlefield wounds but James Danbury didn't. Never one to let an opportunity slip past him, Jack takes on Danbury's identity and rank, and sets out for Bhundapur to take up his new posting as a captain in the 24th Foot regiment - where Jack soon finds himself at the heart of a different sort of conflict.
 In keeping with the policies of the British East India Company, the commanding officer in Bhundapur, Major Proudfoot, has his eyes very firmly set on taking control of the local Maharajah's kingdom, and both sides are threatened by bandits lead by the fiercesome fighter The Tiger. Jack, of course, is also under the threat of having his deception exposed, and his loyalties are further torn by an independent young Englishwoman and  an exotic Indian princess. When the trouble really kicks off, which side will Jack support?

As might be expected from the first Jack Lark novel The Scarlet Thief, The Maharajah's General's is an action-packed swashbuckling sort of adventure - filled with the clash of cold steel in skirmishes and hand to hand fighting.
Jack is a charismatic hero, striving to better himself through unorthodox means - and one for whom the stifled society of the British enclave has no time. Jack has come to acknowledge that his talent lies in warfare - to a certain extent in planning and strategy but primarily in killing. Unfortunately he can't wait for the normal route to advancement but 'helps' himself along the way by adopting others' identities - with the threat of discovery always hanging over him. This time there's a more caring side of him is on show; he's less self-serving and concerned only with his own advancement but torn between loyalties - the Maharajah who befriended him, and his countrymen who are out for his blood - and, although influenced by the attraction of the Maharajah's daughter, also showing an appreciation for the arts and culture of the society his superiors seek to crush.
Unlike The Scarlet Thief which was set against the real events and battles of the Crimea, The Maharajah's General is a fictionalised amalgam of the sort of events which happened all over India in the mid-Victorian era, so while not factually true it gives a good feel of the period, of British policies and Indian opposition, within the framework of a compelling, page-turner story.

For an introduction to Jack Lark and his world read this special blog post from the author, Paul Fraser Collard

Maryom's review -  4 stars
Publisher - Headline 
Genre - Historical fiction, action adventure, 

 Buy The Maharajah's General (Jack Lark 2) from Amazon

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