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Allan Mallinson is a former Lieutenant Colonel of the 13th/18th Cavalry who found himself enthralled by the Aubrey/Maturin adventures of Patrick O'Brian, but despaired of anyone ever producing an equally good series about Wellington's cavalry. So, with O'Brian's encouragement he determined to write them himself.

This first novel begins the saga of Matthew Hervey, a cornet in the (fictional) Sixth Light Dragoons. It hits the ground running with Hervey in the midst of battle, an affair from which he'll emerge with both heroic accomplishments and the resentment of a superior, a combination that recurs throughout the rest of the book.

Mr. Mallinson has developed a reputation for solid research and accurate detail from folks who should know about such things and a legion of admiring fans who enjoy the earnestness of Matthew Hervey and the dexterity with which the author handles old-fashioned thrilling adventure stories. If his aim was Patrick O'Brian and he's struck instead at the C.S. Forester level he's still achieved a great deal.

One additional aspect of at least this first entry does deserve notice and will greatly appeal to many readers--it is the focus on the religious development of Matthew Hervey and the role of Christianity in the life of the army. In his Author's Note, Mr. Mallinson quotes "Sir Charles Oman, one of the two greatest historians of the [Peninsular] campaign":
A very appreciable number of men were of a religious turn--a thing I imagine to have been most unusual in the army of the eighteenth century.
(Wellington's Army, 1809-1814)
This is, of course, reminiscent of our own armed forces today and indeed the wide-ranging war against a revolutionary evil has echoes in our own times as well. At any rate, Hervey's relationship with a French nun, Sister Maria de Chantonnay, he meets in Spain is especially nicely handled. On their parting she gives him a gift:
"There is a desire in you, a spiritual desire, as there is in all of us, and I have composed this vade mecum for you," she continued gently, pulling from her pocket the diminutive volume. "It will tell you how St. Ignatius himself might speak to you."
Hervey's spirituality and morality, his need not just to do the right thing but to understand which is the right thing and why, add a texture to his character that prevents him from being merely a pulp fiction hero. It also makes this a book that fathers will be eager to share with their sons.


Grade: (A)


See also:

Historical Fiction
Allan Mallinson Links:

    -Allan Mallinson (British Cavalry: 13th -18th, Lieutenant-Colonels)
    -Allan Mallinson (Random House)
    -REVIEW: of The Road To Rivoli: Napoleon's First Campaign by Martin Boycott-Brown (Allan Mallinson, The Spectator)
    -REVIEW: of The Exploits Of Baron De Marbot edited by Christopher Summerville (Allan Mallinson, The Spectator)
    -REVIEW: of A Close Run Thing by Allan Mallinson (J. W. FOSTER, Book Page)
    -REVIEW: of A Regimental Affair by Allan Mallinson (Graham Stewart, The Spectator)
    -REVIEW: of A Call To Arms by Allan Mallinson (William Waldegrave, The Spectator)
    -REVIEW: of The Sabre's Edge by Allan Mallinson (Tom Pocock, The Spectator)
    -REVIEW: of Rumours Of War by Allan Mallinson (Robert Stewart, The Spectator)

Book-related and General Links: