Its hard to know what to make of this book; by my reckoning there is about a five-year gap between A Call to Arms and The Sabre's Edge, and as far as we can tell Hervey has been riding in circles ever since, both literally and metaphorically. We open with Hervey on detached duty accompanying the infantry in assualting Rangoon and up the Irrawaddy, before an untimely gunshot wound sends him back to his Regiment. Really, this is a distraction from the rest of the novel, as are some following wanderings in India proper. About the only relevant points were the all-to-brief appearance of Peto and Hervey's survey of Bhurtpore.
The last half of the book really picks up, and makes me forgive a lot of what has gone before - the Siege of Bhurtpore with cavalry actions, night attacks and storming a breach in the great walls of the citadel. But I do wonder how much of the first half of the book was necessary.
Hervey is a man in full now; he is 35 as the book closes, and the boyhood characterestics of piety and nobility that many readers apparently found frustrating are long gone. He's not an anti-hero, but he seems to have sent an officer a message that suicide is the only honourable way out of a sticky situation for the Regiment, and sends another man to his death for no point other than to give him an opportunity prove his courage or lack thereof. He's also keeping a native mistress and seems to have quite lost his faith, but thats all presented quite incidentally.
It's a pretty easy thing for an author to do, to debase a man. In a sense I would have liked to have seen Hervey struggle to maintain his position as a knight in shining armour; especially as I can well see that he can easily blame himself for his wife's death, which is the sole cause for the change in him as far as I can tell. There is not much guilt over the daughter he has not seen in 5 years, although the parallels to another motherless girl (Joynson's errant daughter) could be easy to draw. Nor is there much guilt over effectively making his sister sacrifice her life to Hervey can keep his; in fact, the more I think about it the less fond I am of Hervey the man.
On the other hand, this is book 5 of an 11 (as I write) book series, so perhaps there are twists and turns in the road to come. This is closer to 3.5 stars than 4, but closer to 4 stars than 3. Whatever else it is, it certainly is telling a historically accurate tale: perhaps its better to think of it as the Regiment's story than Hervey's, and enjoy it like that.