Monday, 19 April 2010

Matthew Hervey

One of my favourite authors is Bernard Cornwell and I have enjoyed reading every one of the books in the Richard Sharpe series. Browsing through the stock at the Lions book fair one month, I came across a number of books by Allan Mallinson which looked as though they might be in a similar vein and set in approximately the same time frame, the difference being that the first Sharpe novel is set in 1799 and the last in 1815 (No - there is now a later one) whereas the Hervey series only starts in 1815. Both series feature British army officers, but there the apparent similarity ends. Sharpe, a product of the London slums, has no claim whatsoever to the title 'gentleman', but Hervey, the son of a clergyman, can almost claim that he is one. He also bought his commission.

The series follows Hervey's career in the 6th Light Dragoons. The author is himself (or he was) a serving army officer, reaching the rank of Brigadier, and has quite obviously immersed himself in the history of the cavalry. There are many details which make it easy for the reader to see himself in an 1820s cavalry barracks. Hervey is a likeable hero and the other characters who feature throughout much of the series are well-drawn.

After I had read a couple of the books I felt that they were not as fast-moving as Cornwell's and re-read a Sharpe book to check. I was right - they don't hook me in quite the same way. There is more action in Sharpe than in Hervey, and more strategy in Hervey than in Sharpe, which slows the pace somewhat. That is not to say that I haven't enjoyed those I have read: quite the contrary, but I feel it unlikely that I will want to read any of them again. In fairness, I don't think I can award more than three stars, although I might be pushed to three and a half.

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