Words of Command

Written by Allan Mallinson
Review by Marina Oliver

January 1830 is a hard winter, the King is in failing health, and though it is peacetime, there is discontent in England and increasing demands for constitutional reform that the Prime Minister, the Duke of Wellington, is resisting. Matthew Hervey, back from an assignment in the Balkans, takes command of the 6th Light Dragoons, stationed at the new Hounslow Barracks. As well as dealing with personal domestic problems with his wife and regimental matters such as whom to promote that are far from easy to resolve, Hervey is called upon to help against local unrest. Then he is sent to Belgium for the celebrations of Waterloo, and becomes involved in riots as the Belgians demand separation from Holland.

This twelfth Hervey adventure has more about army practices than military action and so may disappoint readers expecting excitement. Mallinson shows impressive knowledge of the detail of regimental life in peacetime, and of army discipline and practices. In writing a series there is always the dilemma of how much to include about earlier books, for the benefit of readers who may not have read them, and I felt there was here too much in the first chapter. I also take issue with the frequent and often unnecessary use of parentheses; they begin to be noticeable. However, the pace improved when there was action, as in dealing with the incendiarists close to Windsor and the Belgian rioters in Brussels. A quiet book, but for fans of Matthew Hervey a satisfying novel.