The imposter, Jack Lark has survived his first battle. In facing the Russian guns he has discovered what it meant to be a British Officer and found that he had a talent for war.
But Jack has a problem. His alter-ego is lying dead on the banks of the River Alma and he is back to just Private Jack Lark. Luckily for Jack in times of War, there are always opportunity’s for a resourceful young man to better himself and when Captain Danbury expires of wounds in the same hospital as Jack, he seizes his chance.
So Captain Danbury travels to India to meet up with his new regiment but Jack soon discovers that fitting in isn’t going to be that easy. In the harsh social hierarchy of British India, Jack soon makes enemies and when he is discovered to be a fraud, his enemies are only too happy to see him swing from the nearest tree.
Jack manages to escape with the help of chaplain’s beautiful daughter and they have only one place they can go, to the very man, Jack thought he would be fighting.
The Maharajah of Sawadh is determined to keep the British from ruling his kingdom and he readily accepts the service of a man who understands the British Army and is obviously a fighter himself.
Can Jack really fight against his own side, will he send the Maharajah’s army up against the British Redcoats, knowing what they are capable of?
What ever he does, he knows he will fight because he is the Maharajah’s General.
The Maharajah’s General is the second book from Paul Fraser Collard to feature Jack Lark.
The first book, The Scarlett Thief was published earlier this year and was a very promising debut novel (read my review here). The author was now facing that “tricky” second novel but I’m pleased to say that this book is not only as good as the first book but is even better.
The premise for these books is so simple yet so clever. By making Jack an imposter who assumes the identity of a dead officer, the author can take Jack to where ever he likes and put him in situations without worrying what regiment went where or if an Officer would transfer from that regiment to another.
This book picks up on that as Jack travels out to India as a Captain of the 24th Regiment of Foot (later famed for Rorke’s Drift). I think the author really captures the essence of British India in the early 1850’s.
The small isolated communities, cut off from and fearing the locals. The rivalry between the regular army officers and the Company officers and the preening ambition of local commanders determined to make their mark are all described in great detail.
The author also lovingly describes the Maharajah’s court and palace and this gives you a real flavor of India. I also believe that the author handles the paradox of the British, essentially being the ‘baddies’ very well. He shows his admiration for the British army, while also showing the grasping nature of the British administration.
This book is quite a bit longer (by roughly 20k words) than the first book and this has allowed the author to use his undoubted skill to really bring to life Jack and the world he inhabits. You can get the impression of the authors love for this period and this extra word count fleshes a good book (The Scarlett Thief) out into a great book (The Maharajah’s General).
This has to be one of the most entertaining books I have read this year, its fast paced with a clever plot and the battle scenes are exciting and well written. Jack is a really likeable character and I love the battle between his undoubted skill as a soldier and his terrible social skills.
This is a cracking book and I highly recommend it. I can’t wait for book Three!
To coincide with the release of The Maharajah’s General, Paul has kindly agreed to answer some question for me and you can read the here.