Top positive review
on 4 July 2016
Having narrowly escaped Madagascar, in this episode Flashman ends up in the Anglo-Sikh War (the first one actually, 1845-46). Not wanting to join battle, he thinks he is being clever by volunteering for the political service. In fact, this lands him in the worst possible viper's nest, i.e. the mad & murderous court of Lahore. Thankfully, as always he manages to find some female friends: the maharani Jeendan (a former dancing girl, mistress of the previous ruler Ranjit Singh) and her slave girl Mangla. After many intrigues, some more deadly than others, Flashman still witnesses some of the important battles of this atypical war - atypical in the sense that the Sikh army had been organized entirely on European lines. As a result, the battles very much resembled those fought in the Napoleonic wars, rather than those between small European armies and a huge but unorganized 'local' host. Needless to say, the Koh-I-Noor ("the mountain of light"), that most famous of diamonds, also features in the story.
I find the Flashman books mighty interesting and entertaining. They provide an odd combination of fiction and facts, of serious background research and coarse humour, of adventures on the battlefield and between the sheets. I am learning a lot about the Victorian period and its many wars (on that score: I recommend Saul David's "Victoria's Wars" to those who want to have all Victorian wars - at least up to 1861 - in just one book) - frankly I think Flashman ought to be obligatory reading at every school in Britain.