Brothers in Arms
Readers will always be grateful to Bernard Cornwell for bringing the common soldiers, and the spectacularly uncommon Richard Sharpe, to life. Iain Gale has been engaged for some time now in what promises to be a similar multi-volume series featuring the Redcoats of the Duke of Marlborough’s forces in the largely forgotten War of the Spanish Succession.
Captain Jack Steel, the central character and a figure who bears more than a casual resemblance to Richard Sharpe, is an officer of the Grenadiers who has earned his status as a veteran in the author’s earlier Man of Honour and Rules of War. Steel’s adventures take him from the bloodbath at Oudenarde to the equally hellish siege of Lille, as well as on a secret intelligence-gathering mission to the Paris of Louis XIV. All in all, 1708 is quite a busy year for our captain.
The story allows Gale to clearly display his knowledge of armies and tactics in the “Lace Wars,” as well as his talents in portraying scheming and vain generals, an especially nasty French noblewoman, and the tension between family members torn apart by the politics of the time frame. The copy I received has “If you like Sharpe, Jack Steel is your man” on the cover. I found this a bit off-putting, as it almost requires you to compare the two at every turn of the page. This is regrettable. Gale deserves the chance to have his series judged on its own rather than placed on the same stage as a master like Cornwell.