The Maharajah’s General

The Maharajah’s General
© 2013 Paul Fraser Collard
339 pages

In The Scarlet Thief, an ambitious but impoverished redcoat saw a way for himself out of the gutter when the officer he served as an orderly became deathly ill on a sea voyage to Crimea.  Assuming the officer’s name and position, Lark launched himself from the ranks – and found that becoming a leader of men was far more different than mocking officers from the ranks, even aside from the challenges of polite society.  But when Lark arrives in Crimea, he finds that news of his ‘demise’ has preceded him. A pat explanation may put  away suspicion for the moment, but the charade is bound to unravel, and when it does the soldier wrestling with his conscience will find himself wrestling with his loyalties, too.   Can he find a way back into the good graces of the army he loves, but which despises him – or will he find glory by serving an  a foreign king, one who resists the increasing British control of India?  
The original novel based on Lark’s fraud saw him thrown into the Battle of the Alma, where he floundered before finally finding his way. Here, the kingdom involved, and the sustained siege and battle at the end, are fictitious, albeit loosely based on the India mutiny of 1857 and meant perhaps as a prelude to them.  Combat peppers the novels, as even before the British and the defiant maharajah meet in battle,  Lark encounters brigands in the wilderness. The finale certainly commands attention, but more unexpectedly interesting was Lark continually wrestling with himself:  he doesn’t like living a lie, even though it’s a fairly harmless one. He is a good officer in a fight,  proving himself to men on both sides of the line:  even those who want him dead admired his skill with a sword. (His skills on a horse…not so much.)  But that acclaim is part of the problem, as Lark wonders if he’s good for anything other than killing.  He can win glory in battle, but a life? 
The Maharjah’s General proved far more interesting than I’d expected, and it ends with Lark in an unexpected position. I’ll have to try The Devil’s Assassin to see where this path takes him.  Although there are certain elements of the plot that are…implausible (like a man with no horseback experience being appointed as commander of the lancers on the strength of his performance during an ambush), but Lark is an unusual character, and he combined with the setting and Collard’s writing override occasional quirks. 

The Scarlet Thief, Paul Fraser Collard
The Sharpe in India books, Bernard Cornwell. The link is to a list of British Historical Fiction; all the India books are under the Age of Discovery and Early Empire category.

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9 Responses to The Maharajah’s General

  1. CyberKitten says:

    You could spend SO much time reading fiction set in the 19th century….. Not a bad thought actually… [lol]

  2. Stephen says:

    Good century for military fiction, certainly. Napoleonic wars, American Civil War, nonstop action in Mexico, Crimea, the the British stuff in India, the Spanish-Cuban war…and that's just the stuff *I* know about. I'm sure there were smaller wars within Europe I'm not aware of, not to mention the Ottoman empire..

  3. CyberKitten says:

    A great era for naval war fiction too. Can't quite beat gunpowder & sail.

  4. mudpuddle says:

    we watched-recently-a bollywood movie about Indian revolutionary wars in 1855-56. it had a lady maharanee as a hero, rousing fervor among the downtrodden. can't recall the name of course, but it was pretty good; the English were the uncle Scrooges of all time, of course…

  5. James says:

    I've read a lot of twentieth century Indian fiction. This suggests to me I should try some from the previous century.

  6. Stephen says:

    Definitely sounds fun. I haven't got into any bollywood movies, more for want of time than anything else.

  7. Stephen says:

    Quite true! Naval combat just isn't the same now that it's all drones and missles.

  8. CyberKitten says:

    I'm quite a fan of the transition from wood and sail to iron and steam. But I do so enjoy splicing the main brace and raking the enemy from stem to stern with a full broadside….! [grin]

  9. Pingback: (Most Of) What I Read in 2019 | Reading Freely

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