Wednesday, December 12, 2018

"The Last Roundhead" & "The Deceightful Light" .. a review

Apologies for the delay since the last post..  Christmas preparation, trips away, work, and family have meant not a lot going on - but I have read some excellent books in the intervening period - and not being a well known author these two needs special mention...

Not sure where I first saw the recommendation for this book (I think it may have been on the Ralphus 16th and 17th Century blog [clicky]?), but what a recommendation, and now I find myself very much looking forward to what I hope will be a further volume...

The series is written by an author I've not come across before, but who writes a mean story that fairly rolls along - at it's core is the 
(fictional) hero of the two books, Blandford Candy (known to his friends, and some of his enemies, for obvious reasons, as "Sugar"), and the books form his memoirs, written in 1719 when he is proud to be one of the last Roundheads still left alive after the the English Civil War, and the return of Charles II...

Blandford is a happy go lucky young man of good looks, who is forced to leave the family home after having been found out having an affair with his brothers fiancée (there is also mention in the books of a previous dalliance with the local doctors wife, and her daughter, as well ), this forms the catalyst for him leaving home with a letter of introduction to his uncle...

His brothers are both fighting for Charles, but for various and obvious reasons he doesn't want to go to them, and as the uncle he is introduced to by his religiously minded sister is on the side of Parliament, so he ends up there as a junior officer in a troops of horse commanded by the same uncle - when his uncle eventually becomes an intelligence gatherer for the nascent Parliamentary army, Blandford goes with him as a scout.

The author is clearly well read as there are endless numbers of annotations, note and comments, the language is of the time (in the Deceitful Light he comes up with the best insult I have ever heard - "he was as much use as a marzipan dildo" - I have already used it a number of times!), the clothing is described (Blandford is a bit of a dandy with a love of brightly coloured hats in particular) but the descriptions of events are gripping..

As a young gentlemen of the time he naturally becomes a junior officer in the troop and is present at Kineton Fight (Edgehill)  were the description of how Rupert's cavalry handles them badly, is brilliant - his troop recovers though and he is then part of the attack that breaks the Royalist infantry and he captures a standard - something that features later in the books..

Back in London, and still reporting to his uncle, he then becomes involved in an investigation to find a Royalist printing press that is putting out newsletters of a propaganda nature - he also goes to Oxford as part of the Parliamentary peace commission to the King - meeting with his middle brother who has been knighted.

In the space of this one book, he goes from immature young man to experienced/seasoned campaigner, with a jaundiced view of politics, close friendships with his his fellow troopers and scouts, but also experiences losses of those same due to illness, disease, and battle...  very good..

So good in fact that I immediately ordered the second as soon as I finished the first!

"The Deceitful Light" takes up where the previous book finishes and covers from the Autumn of 1643 to Marston Moor in 1644 - Blandford continues to be a scout in his Uncles service but is now a captain and continues to be increasingly involved in the investigation of plots, and the hunting of Royalist spy's, and traitors to the Parliamentary cause.

There are two main plot lines in this second book, one is a murder mystery, and the other slightly more confusing one is a longer term plot that kind of carries on from the first book..  neither is fully resolved within this book I fully expect there to be a follow on...

In history terms it reflects a period when Parliament was a little unsure about how to progress the war, and that's much the same in the book... their strategy was unclear. A large part of the book then focusses on the north and the build up to Marston Moor... Candy meets Cromwell (who he dislikes and admires in equal measure!) and the Fairfax's (who dislike him) - he also meets (in the book) Leven (the Scottish commander). These separate parties all have a desire to win the war against the King - but they have differing views on how it should be done...

It strikes me that this would have very much been the situation at the time - those who had burned their bridges, those who didn't want to spoil their own nest, those who just wanted it all to go away and the status quo return - sounds very much like Brexit!

Overall then two absolute crackers and I can't wait for the next volume - if only to get to the bottom of the murder, and who the damn "washer woman" is... ! Wholeheartedly recommended, stupidly cheap on Kindle, Steve the Wargamer rates these as 10's..   10+'s if you have an interest in the English Civil War

7 comments:

  1. They sound right up my street, I shall go look for them.

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    1. Ray - at points in the book the hero looks back on his life and in one of those moments he mentions his escapades while serving in Tangiers, which put me in mind of you.. one can only hope that future books will cover off some of the other stuff Candy gets up to!

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  2. High praise and amazing how some of these authors seem to go unnoticed. I'm heading over to the Kindle store right away.

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  3. Even better...its available for free as Kindle Unlimited! That's my kind of price. Tonight's reading sorted.

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    1. Sean - get in there.. and happy Christmas from Amazon! :o)

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  4. Have you read "Micah Clarke," by Arthur Conan Doyle?

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    1. Hi Jubilo - good choice - I read it a long long time ago.. must hoik it out for a re-read...

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