Royal Flash by George MacDonald Fraser – Review [Lord of the Night]
Lord of the Night reviews the highly entertaining Royal Flash by George MacDonald Fraser.
“Once again Flashman is faced with a simple choice. Walk into a scheme that will likely get him killed, or die. Yet another fantastic outing from George MacDonald Fraser.” – The Founding Fields
Royal Flash is one of my favourite Flashman novels because it’s just so funny. People who have read a certain book will recognize the plot of this book, and MacDonald Fraser is more than aware of that and alludes to that particular book in a very funny way. And Royal Flash stands out among the Flashman novels for being the only one that is completely fictional.
Harry Paget Flashman has become the darling of England, lionized for his bravery in Afghanistan and in the Punjab. But this time he’s forced into the shadows, recruited by a villainous foreigner bent on seeing him dead into a scheme to alter the map of the world and the powers of Europe forever, while being guarded by a laughing psychopath planning to kill him if he even steps a foot out of line, and watched by the foremost courtesan of the age who he’s already managed to offend mortally. And as if that weren’t enough, he’s got to be married… again.
Royal Flash as I said above is the only completely fictional Flashman novel. Apart from the elements of the Schleswig-Holstein question and the historical characters, none of this book is real, even it’s main setting is fictional. But this allows Flashman to be part of something much different than the last few books, and for the ending to be truly surprising and funny as it was. You can’t predict how Flashy’s going to get out of this one, and that really ratchets up the tension. He’ll survive of course, but how the story will fallout is another matter and the result is a very gripping and amusing story filled with the cowardly, self-serving and lustful acts that Flashman does so well.
The characters this time around are some interesting ones, especially the portrayal of one character whom I found fascinating if only for her outlandish behaviour. Flashman is as devious and toadying as ever as he tries to survive meeting the foremost politician of the age before his name becomes known to all, and the foremost courtesan of the age before her fall into obscurity. MacDonald Fraser always writes his characters well, especially the historical ones, but this time around my favourite was the fictional Rudi von Starnberg who I think meshed with Flashman really well, and of course as one knave to another they make a hell of a team.
The action in this novel is much less prominent as this is not a war novel like the preceeding novels. Rather this is more of a political thriller and as such the majority of the story is Flashman trying to survive this latest predicament and working to come out of it with his hide intact, and preferably very rich. But there are some battles and as usual MacDonald Fraser writes accurate and exciting period fighting, and Flashy’s first real duel is funny as i’d hoped it would be. Royal Flash may not have a lot of action, but what it does have is top notch.
The pacing is nicely done, but Royal Flash is the first of the series to contain a timeskip. The first third of the novel takes place in 1842-1843 whereas the remainder of the novel takes place in 1847-1848. Now I enjoyed this as it allowed things to build up, things to happen to Flashman in the five years before he reaps the consequences of his actions and because it was fitting with historical events of that time. The history is as accurate as always, and rather interesting as the Schleswig-Holstein question is not something that is common knowledge, but the politics of it were very interesting to me as was the addendum regarding one Lola Montez. I doubt the world will see her like again, that’s for sure.
The ending is side-splittingly funny but only if you, unlike Flashman, can see the funny side of it. Flashman’s survived yet another mishap adventure, though no glory and medals and Queen’s thanks this time. Just the knowledge that he survived, and got played like an idiot. Since this novel was not about a historical event the ending was surprising, and I was laughing all the way as Flashman made his last choice in Strackenz and earned the rewards of it. And the final few moments made me smile in pity for poor Flashy, but once again he made his own problems and that was just amusing.
For a highly enjoyable story, yet more fascinating and often unbelievable (in the good way) characters and more of history’s greatest cad Harry Flashman, I give Royal Flash a score of 8.5/10. Any fan of historical fiction, military fiction and comedy will enjoy Royal Flash and seeing Flashman bluff, toady and plough his way through Germany and one of the most diabolical political schemes of the age. Shame it wasn’t real, but then again maybe it was and we just never knew.
That’s it for this review. Next will be Flashman at the Charge. Until next time,
AVE DOMINUS NOX!