The King’s Captain

Written by Mark Turnbull
Review by Martin Bourne

This is a very slim novella (barely 40,000 words), the second (after The King’s Spy, reviewed in HNR 96) in the “rebellion” series of books about Maxwell Walker, a widowed ex-blacksmith serving as a captain in the King’s cavalry during the English Civil War.

1645 is not a happy time for the good captain. The murder of his wife still plays heavily on his mind, and the Royalist cause he has thrown in with is crumbling fast. Desperate times call for desperate measures, so the bulk of the King’s remaining horsemen are despatched on a wild ride north to join the Marquess of Montrose, who has been winning big battles in Scotland and only lacks cavalry to completely secure the country for the King. However, the Parliamentarians seem to be aware of their every move and are able to counter the Royalist force at every turn. Walker begins to suspect there is a traitor in the camp supplying the “rebels” with information, and that the French government is also dabbling in the situation.

The historical detail in this is impressive and enlightening, all the more so because it concentrates on less well-known events at the dying end of the war. Unfortunately, the accompanying story is thin in the extreme, and although there are some significant scenes, the plotline is too threadbare to make much sense.