Customer Reviews: Flashman and the Mountain of Light (Flashman Papers, Book 9)
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on January 25, 2001
Reading this series in chronological order has been tricky, thanks to Fraser's skipping about history. Still, having already read "Flashman", "Royal Flash", and "Flashman's Lady", I saw a change in the "Mountain of Light": Flashy gets a little backbone.
The book itself focuses on a largely forgotten episode in British India, between the Afghan withdrawal in 1842 and the Great Mutiny in the 1850s. This time, Flashman is called into service just as the 80,000-strong Sikh army, the Khalsa, appears ready to sweep down on the English and drive them out once and for all. Flashman is drawn into behind-the-scenes subterfuge that take him from the Sikh royal court to the middle of bloody battlefields. To say much more would spoil the living history that Fraser's created.
However, I find it interesting to note a change in Flashman's character. The first novel, "Flashman", remains my favorite because the young character flees from every battle, and it is only through luck and chicanery that he rises to his fame. Never fear; Flashman still lies to save his hide and jumps on every woman he can get, but I finished "The Mountain of Light" feeling that Flashy had done a pretty good service--which he will tell you in the book. Maybe this is due to Fraser. While the book is the 4th chronologically, it's Fraser's 10th book about his alter ego. Having known the character for so long, maybe Flashman's done a little growing up.
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on August 6, 2007
In George MacDonald Fraser's 'Flashman and the Mountain of Light', our man Flashy sees Queen Vicky holding the Koh-I-Noor diamond and flashes back to India - more precisely, the Punjab where he arrives just in time for the first Anglo Sikh War (1845-46), not to suggest that Flashman had a hand in the war or anything.

The reader meets some of the most colorful figures ever to occupy the historical stage - as Flashman says "there were some damned odd fellows about in the earlies" - many of whom have just about slipped into the obscuring mists of time before Frasser rescued them. There's the White Mughal Alexander Haughton Campbell Gardner, the Queen Mother Maharani Jeendan (ohh, what a mother!), British 'agent' George Broadfoot and more. Flashman even meets up with a couple of fellows who are bigger cowards than he - Lal Singh and Tej Singh.

Fraser also takes the reader through the war in some detail, especially the battles at Ferozeshah and Sobraon. If anything the battle scenes last too long, but that will be a matter of taste for the individual reader.

Along the way, Harry engages in some rather disturbing behavior, which other reviewers have suggested indicate a degree of bravery heretofore undetected. Bosh! While Flashy isn't always the quivering mass of jelly we have come to expect, any actions suggestive of courage are simply acts of self-preservation. And anyway, Flashy gets his just reward for such behavior in the end.

Highest Flashman recommendation.
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VINE VOICEon January 13, 1998
The Flashman series, for those not familiar with it, features a thoroughly despicable, cowardly, womanizing rogue who blunders through history, managing to be present at most of the significant events of the Nineteenth Century. Fraser's historical research is detailed and complete and he manages to teach history in a very entertaining manner. "A spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down." The research that goes into these books is formidable. Flashman manages to participate in the Charge of the Light Brigade, the Sikh Uprising, England's invasion of Afghanistan, John Brown's taking of Harpers Ferry, Custer's Last Stand, etc. While I have not read all of the books in the series, my conclusion, to date, is that Fraser is much better at presenting British History than he is at presenting American History. Perhaps it is my being less familiar with British History, as an American, although I was an History major in college and did study Indian History. The characters seem more colorful, the plots more complicated, the intrigues more convoluted. My intent is to read the rest of the Flashman series by reading the non-American books first.
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on August 3, 2005
After reading Royal Flash and Flashman's Lady, I was beginning to think that I as over Flashy, as those books didnt move me in quite the same way the Flashman Papers and the Dragon did.

However, this tale of debauchery and adventure redeemed good ole Flashy in my eyes. Actually, I have been beginning to suspect that Flashy isnt as big a coward as he plays himself to be. His aim appears steady and his sword arm sure when ever he is in a pinch.

The only draw back is that if you are not careful to remember the meanings of all the native lingo, you'll bound to get lost.
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on January 20, 1997
MacDonald Fraser excels at evolking the atmosphere of India at the time of the Raj. 'Flashman and the Mountain of Light' is Flashy at his best (or worst!) and the goings-on in the court of Lahore have to be read to be believed.
More mature writing and the setting of the North-West Frontier make this even better than 'Flashman' and 'Flashman in the Great Game'.
For the literati this book's theme is the corrupting influence of power and the difference between heros and villains. For the rest of us, Flashy gives us a good laugh.
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on April 14, 2014
The best thing about the Flashman books is the way they weave fiction and fact together in such a way as to make the reader believe Flashy was actually there. Fraser has an uncanny way of getting Flashy into a situation so obscure that we can't understand just why he isn't mentioned in the history books at all. It is so unjust!

I have learned more about military history through Harry's exploits than when I was a serving officer. I hate military history but I love Flashy. Thanks to him I have been able to join in the odd discussion abut various campaigns of yore.
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on September 17, 2003
Neither has historical fiction. Harry Flashman is both. By now you are probably joining me in wishing Harry Flashman was here today. I'd vote for him to President.
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VINE VOICEon August 18, 2013
Having with this book completed the Flashman series, one thing jumps out at me: its consistency.

Fraser never phoned it in. Every one of the 12 books is good. You never find yourself turning the pages thinking, "This really isn't that interesting" or "This isn't that good" or "Will he get to something new already?"

It's not because he doesn't have a formula. The books all have the same one. Flashman unwillingly finds himself at the cockpit of action, because he can't get out of it. Either he has to fake being the dashing hero everyone thinks he is, or he's under orders, or he's a prisoner. He gets involved in intrigue which he does his level best to bend to his own needs - `can I use this to get me out of here?' - but which often ends up serving Queen and country all the same.

On the way there he invariably sleeps with one or more randy lovelies, often queens or princesses, whose seduction is usually critical to his mission, or to his escape (when you can actually separate the two.) He makes lots of entertainingly nasty or bigoted observations along the way, but with his wit and charm you don't mind, plus you're seeing how an officer like him actually might have thought back then (minus the wit and charm). And through it all, he longs to get back to the lusty arms of his trampy wife.

All stories are crammed full of real British Empire history, with sideshows like Little Big Horn and John Brown's insurrection, all substantiated with entertaining footnotes documenting it. Throughout he maintains the delightful conceit of the fictional Flashman having been present at all these otherwise real events, in so doing bringing back to life an era unknown to many of us.

This is particularly so for us Americans. Commonwealth denizens get some empire history in school; names of 19th century Indian battles may at least be familiar to them.

Before I read this I'd dimly heard of Punjab but couldn't have told you anything about it. And I'd never heard of the battles of Sobraon or Ferozeshah, upon which the fate of the British Raj depended. The Brits winning these in 1845-46 sealed their control of India for another century.

Flashman, rescued with his wife from Madagascar, separates from her again as he is ordered back to India. Punjab, a key northern province bordering Kashmir, is held by the Sikhs who have a formidable army, the Khalsa. Unlike other colonial peoples, they make their own arms and ammunition, they've had plenty of Western advisers, and their troops are loyal, disciplined and ferocious.

But the death of a longtime monarch has left the Punjab in turmoil. Right now the child ruler Dalip Singh sits on the throne, under the regency of his mother Mai Jeendan, a former dancing girl of great beauty and low repute. But the Khalsa is restless, both towards the throne and the British, whom they think they can beat.

The British worry that that's true - that it's only a matter of time before the Sikhs strike southeast across the Sutlej River. If they do, the British, whose forces are stretched thin, are sure to be defeated, removing their air of invincibility and tempting other Indians to rise up.

Their best generals think they have a slim chance if they strike first, perhaps luring the Khalsa into premature or miscalculated battle. Ideally the British want to keep the Sikhs in power there, under British suzerainty, guarding the Khyber Pass on their other frontier against the Muslim hordes beyond it.

Mai Jeendan - shrewd between bouts of drunken orgying with a revolving stable of lovers - fears her own army even more than she fears the British. She must posture to the Khalsa that she plans to attack the British, giving them the war that they want, while secretly maneuvering to preserve her favor in British eyes and to ensure the Khalsa lose any war, removing them as a threat to her.

Into this diplomatic snakepit is Flashman thrown, with his gift for native languages and ability to pass as a local. Twice he makes the journey into the Sikh capital Lahore, and twice he makes the even more dangerous journey out. While there he has to figure out who he can trust in the palace's state rooms, back corridors, bedrooms and gates. And he must decide on his own authority whether to go ahead with a daring stratagem, on which the fate of the Empire depends.

It all transpires with the colorful cast of characters who dominated the era - gung-ho generals, conniving Oriental despots, foreign adventurers and one fictional eyewitness to it all.
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on October 31, 1999
one of the many wonderful things about the Flashman series is the voice of the aged flashman looking back on the (mis)deeds of the young flashman. The aged Flashman shows up rather too much in the more recent books, but in this one, he is in fine form. The opening chapter of this book is a treasure, and made me go dig out my photos from my visit to London to see if I had seen the mountain of light when I glanced rather boredly at the crown jewels years ago. Suddenly the history of all that looted treasure in those stuffy british museums was alive! Worth reading for this chapter alone, but without it, still a treasure.
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on July 15, 2014
I've read five flashman novels so far. Love them. This, however, was the least interesting of the bunch. When Flashy is in action, he does it well. But when Fraser decides to spend several pages on describing a room or the inner workings of a rather unimportant group of ruffians, it's yawn time.
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