Monday, July 10, 2017

The Maharajah's General by Paul Fraser Collard

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
Obtained from: Personal Kindle Library
Read: July 6, 2017

The second Jack Lark tale is a riveting tale of battle and adventure in a brutal land, where loyalty and courage are constantly challenged and the enemy is never far away. Jack Lark barely survived the Battle of the Alma. As the brutal fight raged, he discovered the true duty that came with the officer's commission he'd taken. In hospital, wounded, and with his stolen life left lying on the battlefield, he grasps a chance to prove himself a leader once more. Poor Captain Danbury is dead, but Jack will travel to his new regiment in India, under his name. Jack soon finds more enemies, but this time they're on his own side. Exposed as a fraud, he's rescued by the chaplain's beautiful daughter, who has her own reasons to escape. They seek desperate refuge with the Maharajah of Sawadh, the charismatic leader whom the British Army must subdue. He sees Jack as a curiosity, but recognizes a fellow military mind. In return for his safety, Jack must train the very army the British may soon have to fight. 

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The Marquess of Dalhousie, Governor-General of India
The great thing about coming to a series late in the game is that you don’t have to wait to jump into the next installment. I inhaled Paul Fraser Collard’s The Scarlet Thief last week and can’t tell you how great it felt to crack open The Maharajah's General as I was still riding high on my experience of its predecessor.

The novel picks up only a few months after the final chapter of book one and sees Jack returning to an old ruse to pursue his professional ambitions and avoid punishment for his original crime. Now I’m not a fan of rehashing and generally knock stars from series that recycle plot lines, but Jack’s deception plays out very differently in The Maharajah's General and I think it important to give Collard credit for creatively reimagining how Jack’s subterfuge played out. The end result is far from repetitious as it forces Jack into new situations and leads him to grow in ways neither he nor the audience expect.

There is a certain romanticism to the exotic kingdom of Sawadh, but the fictitious setting pays due homage India, its culture, and the final days of the East India Trading Company’s domination of the region. The story explores the nature of commercial interest in India and the rampant exploitation of both the country and its people, but it was the legacy of James Broun-Ramsay, 1st Marquess of Dalhousie and Governor-General of India, that captured my imagination. I was entirely unfamiliar with the Indian Mutiny when I picked up this book, but Collard’s illustration of the bureaucratic policies that led to it fascinated me to no end.

Collard’s inclusion of not one, but two strong females is also worthy of note. Isobel’s strong-will proved an entertaining foil for Jack, but I think there’s just as much to be said for Lakshmi’s subtle charisma and guidance. Strength evidences itself in a myriad of different ways and I liked how Collard’s work acknowledged this truth through the relationships Jack shares with both women.

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For better or worse he was a redcoat. He had done what his conscience dictated, and now he would have to wait and see what penalty he would pay for staying loyal to the country of his birth.
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