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Soldier of Fortune Paperback – March 15, 2009
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"Seething with intrigue and packed with swashbuckling heroics..." (Quarterdeck Magazine)
"I would award Mr Marston some marks for writing about an unfamiliar time and place instead of the Napoleonic Wars. As usual, this author is at his best writing about amiable heroes and hissable villains having some good-humoured adventures in an entertaining plot." (Historical Novels Review)
About the Author
Edward Marston was born and brought up in South Wales. A full-time writer for over thirty years, he has worked in radio, film, television and the theatre, and is a former chairman of the Crime Writers’ Association. He is the author of sixty crime novels set in seven distinct periods of history, and a master of historical fiction. He is the author of the hugely successful Railway Detective series.
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The novel fails to deliver a plausible picture of military life during the War of the Spanish Succession. In parts it’s laughably bad. The cover art erroneously depicting the Napoleonic Wars ? Not a good sign. Where Mr. Marston pastes the campaign narrative from historical accounts he remains on solid enough footing, but flounders elsewhere. For example, at one point during the Allied march, Rawson’s unit is ambushed by French “snipers” (mounted men, so a detachment of cavalry or dragoons). He orders his men to scatter and take cover. A nonsensical command, opposite to the tactical doctrine of infantry ca. 1700 which fought formed in close order, both to fire volleys and repel cavalry with a wall of bayonets.
Then we have Rawson, although but a captain (and how came the ex-farm boy by the means to purchase his commission ?), commanding a battalion. Then as now, an infantry captain commanded a company. In Marlborough’s English contingent, regiments of foot aside from the Guards consisted of one battalion, therefore the battalion WAS the regiment and commanded by a colonel, or perhaps a lieutenant colonel. Perhaps it matters not, as aside from vague references to “seeing to the men”, the book conveys no sense that Rawson holds any administrative responsibility in the army whatsoever. He seems to spend all his time hobnobbing with a platoon sergeant who calls him “Dan” and quite ludicrously, with the Duke of Marlborough himself. Chain of command ? Apparently the British army did without.
Nor are Louis XIV’s councils of war presented convincingly. By most accounts Louis carried himself with a well-mannered gravitas and bore the many misfortunes of the French war effort with at least an outward display of stoic fortitude. Yet the author’s Louis is prone to tantrums at the first hint of bad news. At one point, the author has the King being counselled by the duc de Saint Simon, more bad history. When Saint Simon quit the army at the perceived slight to his honor for being passed over for regimental command, Louis is said to have tossed aside his letter of resignation with the tart comment “another traitor”. Thus by 1704, Saint Simon was hanging on at Versailles only by virtue of his wife’s connections.
Devotees of this historical period may prefer Iain Gale’s Jack Steel series, although in some ways it’s nearly as bad. One has to wonder, given a rich selection of well-written novels of the Royal Navy set during the age of sail, by comparison why has the Army been so damnably ill-served ?
Although this is technically a war story, the author does not get too bogged down in military strategy detail, nor focuses too solely on the war itself, to the point of boredom or for lack of a good yarn. This book was a fabulous blend of action, adventure, romance, humor, and military battles, but shows us the human factors amidst the blood and bullets of great love, friendship and endearing emotions between the many players involved both on and off the battlefield. Marston allows the reader to simply fall in love with our dashing young Captain Rawson as he not only climbs the ranks of duty and claims many gestures of honor under his commander the Duke of Marlborough, but spends much of his life engaging and disengaging from one lady-fair to the next, and often is left running for his life from husbands and villains alike. With swashbuckling duels and dodging bullets, pretty ladies swooning from Daniels gallant charms and acts of chivalry, murderous husbands out to behead Rawson for debauchery, Captain Daniel Rawson gives us a jolly good show and I eagerly anticipate reading book two now out, Drums of War. This is not a serious military novel, but a light and easy fast paced historical adventure ride that is fun and very enjoyable.
There are a couple of subplots, too, but they are as absurd as the main story. I'll summarize. The English army wins the battle of Blenheim and Captain Rawson kills his enemies.
Most recent customer reviews
Story has too many holes, even after reading it twice we have a man who made it up...Read more