Honorable Company: A Novel of India Before the Raj

Written by Allan Mallinson
Review by India Edghill

In August 1815, Captain Matthew Hervey, aide-de-camp to the Duke of Wellington, is summoned by the Duke and given an important and secret mission: to sail to India, to assess the Nizam of Haiderabad’s army and to discover the Nizam’s intentions toward the British. As a cover story, Hervey will be studying the use of the lance by the Nizam’s cavalry with an eye to its adoption as a weapon for British cavalry units.

But Hervey soon discovers both these ostensible missions are only a cover for his true job. Years before, Arthur Wellesley served as a general in India; after the Maratha war, he was given title to several jagirs (estates) by the Rajah of Chintal. Now politics make it expedient that Arthur, Duke of Wellington, should have have been involved with either Chintal or the estates the Rajah granted. Hervey’s true mission is to remove all trace of the Duke’s ownership of the Chantal jagirs.

Leaving behind his betrothed, the dutiful Hervey catches the first ship sailing for India. Once there, he becomes embroiled in the affairs of Godaji Rao Sundur, Rajah of Chintalpore, and his sister Suneyla. Chintal is threatened by the Pindarees, roaming bands of outlaws bullying the countryside, as well as by covert moves on it by the Nizam of Haiderabad. Hervey finds himself drawn into the conflict…

Honorable Company is a rousing adventure containing a most satisfactory number of cobras, noble horses, mysterious intrigues, lancers, steadfast true loves, and perfectly corking ambushes and battles. Hervey acquits himself admirably, and is a likeable hero, if a bit stiff.

I found this an enjoyable read – a nice, solid historical novel. Although Matthew Hervey isn’t as charismatic as Richard Sharpe, fans of Bernard Cornwell and Patrick O’Brian should give this series a chance.