The Lone Warrior
© 2016 Paul Fraser Collard
The time for grand strategy was over. The moment had come to put faith in an Enfield rifle, a steel bayonet and the exhausted and bloodied soldier who stood behind it.
Jack Lark is a free man, and restored to his old name. Although he’s proven himself a warrior, his skillful bloodlust in battle unnerves him, and that combined with his general disgust with the army in India, see him looking for a boat home. That was the plan, anyway. Enter a new sweetheart, though, and a mutiny that imperils her, her mother, and every Englisher or Indian associate thereof sweeps the subcontinent, and Jack is back in uniform. The Lone Warrior follows Lark throughout the great mutiny of 1857, in which pent-up outrage spurred on by allegations of religious abuse turns into a country-wide war that threatens to destroy Jack and all those he loves and admires. The story is much grimmer than usual, with evidence of child murder and mentions of rape as the mutiny turns into a general civil war. Still, as with The Devil’s Assassin, the novel ends with Lark in a very interesting spot, making me want to read on.
The mutiny catches most everyone by surprise; Lark’s first hints of danger are fired villages on the horizon, and the arrival of raucous, disheveled troops in the city who appear leaderless. At first the mutiny seems like a local affair that will be put to rights soon enough, but as it spreads, Jack and other British soldiers find themselves in the middle of fighting retreats, routs, or sieges. Jack is in constant danger , losing much along the way, and his residual faith in the Cause and in his fellow man is constantly eroded by the horrific abuses of human life he sees perpetuated by both the Brits and the Indians, who by the late novel are also fighting between themselves in the sudden power vacuum created by the empire’s retreat. Another area of interest in The Lone Warrior is the presence of two officers who were historic personalities, their characters based on the conflicting literature about them. They’re far more complex than usual as a result, worthy of both admiration and contempt at times. Jack ends the novel wholly sick of it all, but considering how many novels are left, obviously something drives him back to stand under the flag. I’ll just have to see what!