Historical fiction is enjoying a new golden age at present, with ever more impressive military heroes joining the ranks. Alan Mallinson, author of The Nizam's Daughters
and a serving cavalry officer, has already achieved considerable praise for his brand of derring-do in his first novel A Close Run Thing
, which is generally acclaimed as a debut of real excitement and verve. With The Nizam's Daughters
, the author has overcome the second hurdle with equal aplomb.
In Mallinson's second novel, Matthew Hervey of the Light Dragoons, fresh from the Battle of Waterloo, is newly appointed as aide de camp to the Duke of Wellington. Hervey is sent on a clandestine mission to India (leaving behind his fiancée Henrietta) to travel to an alien land seething with intrigue. At the princely state of Chintal, Hervey undertakes his mission: to discover the intelligence that will allow the Duke to forge lasting alliances if (as he expects) he becomes Governor General of India. Needless to say, Hervey soon finds himself way out of his depth, as Chintal is a city threatened from all sides. The massing forces of the Nizam of Haidarabad, whose expansionist policies are backed up by the eponymous Nizam's Daughters, a legendary artillery brigade provide the most sinister menace.
Mallinson has studied the masters of the historical adventure genre well, and is particularly adroit at creating the dangerous and dirty reality of the soldier's lot. The author's experience of horseborne warfare serves him well in pitching the reader into the heart of the battles fought by his beleaguered hero. There are those who may fear that the author's military credentials may be the reason he has been commissioned to write these books rather than any storytelling skills but even a cursory glance at the first chapter should abuse anyone of that idea. Mallinson is a genuine storyteller, with a gift for the striking image:
Another volley came, felling two more. Hervey sprang up and rushed to one of them, lifting him across his shoulder and taking up his musket in his free hand. Peto did the same as another welter of musket balls assailed them. One struck the silver pouch of Hervey's crossbelt, and with such force that he was knocked clean to the ground. Peto, having dropped his man in a doorway, dashed to him, but he was already on his hands and knees retching with the pain and gasping for the air that had been knocked out of him. And still the firing continued...
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
"A marvellous read, paced like a well-balanced symphony ... This is more than a ripping yarn...I look forward enormously to hearing more of Hervey's exploits; he is as fascinating on horseback as Jack Aubrey is on the quarterdeck." (The Times
"'This is an engaging work...The attention to detail is admirable'" (Daily Express
"Allan Mallinson's grasp of the technical side of his subject is effortless and impressive...The portrayal of the men of all ranks is excellent ...This promises to be an extremely enjoyable series" (Spectator
"Treads a middle course between the subtleties of O'Brian and the simplicities of Cornwell...An exciting, fast-moving story, full of bloody hacking with sabre and tulwar." (Evening Standard
"'O'Brian's equal in accurate knowledge of the equipment, methods, weapons and conditions of serve of the fighting men of whom he writes...An imaginative feat of high order, owning as much to thorough scholarship as it does to compassion and sensibility... Brilliantly conveyed'" (Country Life