Flashman’s Lady by George MacDonald Fraser – Review [Lord of the Night]
Lord of the Night reviews the swashbuckingly hilarious Flashman’s Lady by George MacDonald Fraser.
“The Flashman series is like no other. No other series has such real history behind it and no series makes history as fun. So when Ol’ Flashy ends up chasing pirates in Borneo and being sold into slavery in Madagascar, not only is it highly amusing but also educational into the reign of one of the most brutal rulers in history.” – The Founding Fields
Flashman’s Lady, while being the 6th Flashman book released, is the second chronologically. Some argue that this is Royal Flash but I say that since Flashman’s Lady takes place before the majority of Royal Flash, it should come first. Though not as war oriented as the first novel, Flashman’s Lady is no less exciting as Flashman journies into the southern seas and ends up a slave in one of the strangest countries on earth at the time.
Flashman, the hero of London, is in it again. After embarking on a vacation, in no small part due to the bookiees out to break his legs back home, his lovely idiot wife Elspeth is kidnapped by pirates and Flashman, reluctantly, sets out after her. Flashman’s journey will take him from the streets of Singapore to the torture dens of Madagascar, from the jungles and rivers of Borneo to the palace of the White Rajah himself, and into the unwilling service of Queen Ranavalona I, one of the most brutal monarchs to ever live. It’s going to take all of Flashy’s charm, bedroom prowess and toadying to get himself out of this mess and back home to England where one thing is certain. He’s never going to play cricket again.
Though Flashman’s Lady doesn’t center around a war like the previous volume it does give just as interesting a story. Flashman’s situation is no less dire than it was in Afghanistan, as he finds himself hunting pirates with one of the most dashing englishmen of the age, fighting for his life in the streets of Singapore and serving perhaps the cruellest queen in history in more ways than just politically. Fraser does a smashing job putting Flashman into a fictional situation, yet showing so many real conflicts raging around him and how Flashy plays a role in each of them. As usual the history is spot-on and educational, and one historical character in particular really impressed me and apparantely his portrayal in this book is remarkably accurate. The plot delves into some lesser known areas of history and makes the story all the better for it, surprising the reader with shocking historical facts that are true despite how insane they sound and showing some people that should really be the subject of more history classes.
The characters are as fun as ever. Flashy is stil a coward and a rake and a liar, and he gets more and more chances to plough, toady and bluff his way into and out of trouble as he finds himself hunting pirates in Borneo and as a foreign attache to the Madagascaran military. These madcap situations provide a fruitful crop of characters for Flashy to barely survive meeting including James Brooke, Sulieman Usman, Jean LaBorde and Ranavalona I. These historical characters are sensational and often it’s surprising to find that they were not only real, but very much like they were portrayed in the book which I think is one of the signs of Fraser’s skill as a writer, to be able to read journals and historical pieces and compendiums and from that, create a realistic portrayal of a historical personage for his books.
The action is great and definitely unique in the series. Flashy finds himself in more tight spots than before and his scramble to make it through provides many laughs, and at one point I simply couldn’t stop howling with laughter as Flashman did something that I think, as did he, sums up his character perfectly. Fraser does his battles really well from storming pirate strongholds in Borneo, to attacking outposts in Madagascar and ambushes in the slums of Singapore, the fight scenes are as funny as you can expect from a Flashman novel and as sharp as any adventure novel.
The pacing is nicely done. Flashman’s Lady is not as fast-paced as Flashman was, the novel builds up slowly showing how Flashman gets himself into this situation through his own foolishness, and a good part of the beginning of the novel covers simply the short-lived cricket career of Harry Flashman. For some this might seem slow, and for one like me who knows nothing of cricket, it can be a bit confusing as the book doesn’t baby you and explain the rules. But one Flashy leaves England the book is as exciting and fast-paced as the rest of the series.
The ending is funny as always, and rather teasing as there is no break between Flashman’s Lady and the next book chronologically, Flashman and the Mountain of Light. Flashman has survived Madagascar, barely, and is en route towards his next adventure. He really should not have taken up cricket, or done any of the myriad other things that landed him in this situation. But that’s Flashman for you, creating his own problems and solving them and inevitably causing more by doing so.
For another hilarious instalment in the Flashman series, and a look into some deeply fascinating history, I give Flashman’s Lady a score of 8.2/10. I don’t rate it as highly as the first novel because the cricket segments weren’t as interesting to me, but the rest of the novel was definitely a great read and once again I say any fan of military fiction, historical fiction or just somebody looking for a laugh can enjoy this series.
That’s it for this review. Next is Royal Flash, until next time,
AVE DOMINUS NOX!