"Conspiracy. Revolution. War. Hawkwood heads to France to bring down Napoleon."
Fourth in the Matthew Hawkwood series this book sees our main character being sent to Paris to go undercover and assist in a rebellion against Bonaparte.
For those of you new to the series I can understand if you have sudden visions of McGee doing a Tarantinoesque change of historical events *cough* Inglorious Basterds *cough* to ensure we're all given a thoroughly heart-warming, hollywood ending. Those of us who have read the first three will now pipe up and tell you off for thinking such terrible things about McGee's ability to do his research and ensure we aren't left too dumbfounded/insulted.
Newbies - back to the beginning: Hawkwood is given a mysterious, dark background involving the military and a scar I haven't yet figured the meaning behind. He now works as a London Bow Street Runner during the time of the Napoleonic War. This doesn't mean Runners just went after criminals though, oh no! According to research carried out they went undercover, were employed in cases of treason and sedition and even went after French prisoners of war! Now that's worthy of a book series, trust me, I've read the first three too and it's all in there!
Rebellion sees Hawkwood moving away from his current Runner career and back towards his old military ways as he's sent to Paris whilst Napoleon and his army are away fighting in Russia. He's tasked with meeting up and getting in with an old general who has been charged with treason against the empire once before and who seems to believe in the old adage 'If at first you don't succeed...'. From the moment Hawkwood appears on the scene and gives the general a good swift kick up the proverbial to get him going (or so he thinks) it doesn't stop. From the foundering ship in the storm to the whispers and plots in a care home/prison up to and beyond the moment when they're walking through corridors basking in their certain victory, the writing has you hooked. The feelings of utter despondency to joy and elation and more seeps out of the page and into you, the reader, making you cheer them on (in your head if in public places) and worry about their safety.
Along the way you are introduced to different, colourful characters with their own, potentially dangerous reasons for getting involved. Be warned, however, do not get too attached, this is not a world where everyone will miraculously survive. I sadly found myself becoming too attached to the people that were created in this world. The brave don't always live to fight another day and not all the bad guys get their comeuppance. Trust no one, take nothing for granted and, above all, don't think you know what's going to happen next.
Whilst this series has, at times, been likened to Cornwell's Sharpe that can only go skin deep for McGee brings a whole new layer of intrigue, political plots and subterfuge that leaves you wanting the fifth book to be out already (hint McGee, big hint!). If you're looking for some action with substance get this series or, as I ahve been reliably informed, buy this book as it works quite well as a standalone too - though I do suggest the entire series!