Title – The Maharajah’s General
Series – Jack Lark #2
Author – Paul Fraser Collard
Genre – Historical Fiction
Length – 336 pages
Published – 27 March 2014
My Rating – ★★★★
As I have mentioned in my review of Collard’s debut novel “The Scarlet Thief”, I started reading the Jack Lark series because I received the latest and 6th book from Netgalley. I am reading the whole series at the moment and I am quite excited to share my views on the books with you.
When I started the sequel, there was a little “about the book” page in the beginning. I read it just before starting the first chapter (just because you start reading in the beginning, don’t you?). After reading it, I felt this surely gave most of it away, and especially reading the first half of the book, I always knew what to expect from that early section, which was quite irritating I can assure you. So apart from the advice not ever to read the “about the book” section before reading the book, let’s get to the story.
In “The Scarlet Thief” we were introduced to the charlatan and identity-thief Jack Lark who impersonated a British Captain and fought in the Battle of Alma in the Crimean Wars. The sequel (as you might be able to tell from the title) plays in India. Following the events of the Crimean Wars, Jack Lark takes yet another identity – that of the British officer Captain Danbury who was killed in the conflict on the Crimean Peninsula. Jack, alias Captain Danbury travels to India to join his new regiment hoping to continue his charade as long as possible. However, this time his true identity is revealed quickly and with a price upon his head, Jack has to flee from his own countrymen, finding refuge with the local sovereign – the Maharajah of Sawadh who charges Jack to repay him by training the Maharajah’s army. The British try to expand their control over the Maharajah’s territory, which results in a violent conflict between the two fractions – with Jack Lark caught in between. Jack has the choice – to fight against his own country or to support the one person who saved him from his would-be captors.
I was intrigued when I read about the Doctrine of Lapse, which was formulated by the Governor General who was ruling over the Indian territories controlled by the British around the 1850’s. The doctrine states that any vassal state (a state subordinate to the British) were to be annexed if the present sovereign proved to be either incompetent or without a male heir. That this was an actual thing and that the British were presumptuous enough to declare a sovereign to be incompetent or simply not to accept their children as the official heir, is more than morally questionable and obviously provides ample material for enthralling tales. Fortunately, Collard took the opportunity and composed a story even more captivating than his first!
Jack as a member of the low social classes of the British society against all odds manages to grow ever more into his role as a military leader. He stays true to his believes and again shows his strength of character in difficult situations. While with the Maharajah, he does not succumb to the splendour surrounding him, but rather learns to understand these for him so foreign people that have to live under the threat posed by his own country. The self-revelation that some part of him longs for battle and conflict frightens Jack, but it also makes him proud of his achievements, giving more depth to Jack’s character.
In summary, “The Maharajah’s General” is even better than Collard’s debut novel and as such a must-read for everyone who, like me, enjoyed the first book of the Jack Lark series.