Ranger

Written by Timothy Ashby
Review by Susie Helme

1796: Arthur Charteris inherits a baronetcy and comes from Grenada to Leicestershire to claim it. With him are two servants and his child Alexander (Chart) by his recently deceased slave Weju. Half-caste Chart is raised as a gentleman alongside his cousin, the hunchbacked Pemberton, until Pemb commits a crime and is banished from the household. Chart goes to boarding school where Pemb is already studying and is violently bullied by his cousin. He falls in love with Arabella, but they are separated when he joins the East India Company.

Upon the death of his father, Chart returns home to find not only that Pemb has thoroughly usurped him and married Arabella, but legally he is considered Pemb’s chattel. He is seized and taken to Grenada to be worked as a field slave on the sugar plantation where he grew up. Chart “feels like an Anglo-Saxon” inside, a “man caught between two worlds”, and despite being helped by prominent abolitionists, he tends to look upon his case as a property dispute rather than a manumission issue.

The French Revolution comes to the island in the form of a slave revolt, but Chart’s position is ambiguous. The revolt gives him his freedom, but he refuses to join in the violent reprisals against the British landowners. Instead, he joins the Black Rangers and fights against the French, to crush the rebellion. But he still has to face his cousin.

The interplay between class interests, race interests, and national—even tribal—interests is complex, aggravated by the hypocrisy of the French Revolution, betrayed before it could truly deliver liberté, egalité, fraternité.

The events in this book and many of the people were real. Unfortunately, the horrific depictions of abuse and degradation of the slaves were taken from true accounts. Book One in the Storm of War series.