Needing Napoleon: 1 (The Richard Davey Chronicles)

Written by Gareth Williams
Review by Vicki Kondelik

In Gareth Williams’ inventive time-travel novel, Richard Davey, a history teacher in present-day England, is bored with his life and unhappy at work.  He lives for the school holidays, when he can go to Paris and visit sites associated with his hero, Napoleon.  On one visit, he comes across an antiques store owned by an eccentric old woman who tells him time travel is possible for people who have nothing to tie them to the present.  Richard, who has always thought Napoleon should have won the Battle of Waterloo, decides to go back in time to meet Napoleon and change the outcome of the battle.  His journey back is successful, but he is uncertain how to convince Napoleon to change his battle plans, because Napoleon is sure he will win if he follows his original plans.  Will Richard change the course of history?  It would be a spoiler to tell, but I will say that Richard eventually becomes a close confidant of the emperor.

Williams obviously has a deep love for the Napoleonic period, and his depiction of Waterloo contains many details of the positions of the armies, the uniforms, and the weapons.  His details are accurate, as far as I can tell, except for Richard’s intervention.  Richard is a sympathetic protagonist, who has lost his parents in an accident in his childhood and still carries emotional scars.  He is somewhat timid and hard to get to know, but the events of the book cause him to come out of his shell and become a strong hero.  The way he gains Napoleon’s trust is quite believable, as Richard has to maintain a disguise as an American supporter of Napoleon, because no one will believe he came from the future.  The ending is satisfactory, and leads directly to the sequel.