All The Books I Can Read

1 girl….2 many books!

Review: The Queen’s Colonial by Peter Watt

on November 26, 2019

The Queen’s Colonial
Peter Watt
Pan Macmillan AUS
2019, 416
Copy courtesy of the publisher

Blurb {from the publisher/}:

Sometimes the fate for which you are destined is not your own…

1845, a village outside Sydney Town. Humble blacksmith Ian Steele struggles to support his widowed mother. All the while he dreams of a life in uniform, serving in Queen Victoria’s army.

1845, Puketutu, New Zealand. Second Lieutenant Samuel Forbes, a young poet from an aristocratic English family, wants nothing more than to discard the officer’s uniform he never sought.

When the two men cross paths in the colony of New South Wales, they are struck by their brotherly resemblance and quickly hatch a plan for Ian to take Samuel’s place in the British army.

Ian must travel to England, fool the treacherous Forbes family and accept a commission into their regiment as a company commander in the bloody Crimean war…but he will soon learn that there are even deadlier enemies close to home.

I received the follow up book to this, The Queen’s Tiger, for review and when I mentioned that I hadn’t read this one yet and would that impact on my reading of the second, the publisher kindly offered me a copy of this one. Which now, having read it, I think is probably necessary for reading the next book as it is a direct follow on with a lot of plots from this novel unresolved and continuing into the second.

Ian Steele is a blacksmith taking advantage of the steady migration of men to the goldfields in the Blue Mountains. Although he’s thought to go and seek his fortune himself, instead he knows that all those doing the same will be needing tools and there his trade as a blacksmith comes in. Ian makes a steady income, enough to support his widowed mother and also think about taking a wife. He has someone in mind, but she is far above his station in life. Ian meets Samuel Forbes, whose family purchased him an Army commission that he has since left. The two are startlingly similar and when Samuel hears that Ian wishes to serve in Queen Victoria’s army, he comes up with a plan. Ian will serve as Samuel, in his place, in an agreement that will benefit both of them. Samuel will get to live the life he chooses and Ian will get to live a life he only dreamed of. He spends a month learning to be Samuel, memorising his life and family and then travels to England to take up his new position.

It’s not easy. Ian was raised in the colonies, not as a gentleman like Samuel, who is from a wealthy family. They explain much of Ian’s different manner from his time in the colonies fighting Maoris in New Zealand having ‘toughened him up’ and Samuel’s family find him a more formidable and assertive character. Ian learns that being Samuel isn’t easy – and in fact, some people might actually want him out of the way – permanently.

Honestly, I think that this is probably not something I would’ve chosen myself to read. But the beauty of getting sent books to read is that sometimes you get sent things like that, things you wouldn’t pick for yourself but they turn out being great reads that push you out of your comfort zone. I’m a person that needs pushing sometimes. And I enjoyed this a lot more than I thought I would. I was curious from the very beginning – Ian and Samuel are quite different but they also share several interests and participate in good conversations. Ian, although not a gentleman, has been brought up well and is educated. When he arrives to become a soldier, his ‘roughness’ at first draws a bit of ridicule from his men. They call him ‘the Queen’s colonial’ for his accent and his way of treating those below him as equals. In the army it’s apparently split into two different sorts of factions – those that purchase a commission and those that are recruited. Generally those that have purchased a commission are wealthy second or third sons, perhaps not needed to run the family estates but serving is a way of bringing distinction and ‘making a man’ out of them. Recruits come from the lower classes of society and serve under those who have purchased their commissions. Although it seems possible to advance in rank from good deeds it’s also possible to purchase higher ranks as well.

Ian faces immediate danger in portraying Samuel because there’s a caveat attached to Samuel’s serving in the army and there are people who definitely want to make sure that he doesn’t serve out his time. Ian is clever and resourceful and he has to deal with these dangers in a way that doesn’t arouse suspicion as it would be disastrous if it were to be discovered that he isn’t Samuel after all. He proves himself a capable army man, levelheaded in a battle and good with the men. They come to admire him, those from all walks of life except for one man he exposed as lacking and made an enemy of. That is now another person who seeks to ruin him and Ian definitely has to watch his back. There’s a lot of intrigue in this and I didn’t know much about the time period and the Crimean war that Ian is fighting in and I’m pretty sure I haven’t read anything else that deals with it. I enjoyed the way Ian makes himself a valued member of the ranks, overcoming the disadvantage of his background to prove that men of his birth are capable in the ways of the gentry although he’s only given the chance to do that because he’s pretending to be someone else. Were they to know who he really was he wouldn’t have gotten close to leading men. He makes interesting friendships and inspires loyalty and both he and another are able to overcome some really difficult circumstances to build a friendship.

Negatives for me are I am not really into reading lengthy battle scenes, so I ended up skimming those but if they’re your thing there’s a couple late in the book. Also Ian’s love interest was random as anything and he just immediately gave up to her that he wasn’t really Samuel Forbes. She didn’t betray him but Ian, you’re going to have to not do that. Still I found this an interesting and engaging read and as I mentioned there are many things left unresolved, particularly Ian’s safety as Samuel which presumably will carry over to the next book. I’m looking forward to seeing what happens next.


Book #198 of 2019

One response to “Review: The Queen’s Colonial by Peter Watt

  1. Mic says:

    Great review. I have read a couple of Peter Watt’s in a different series and he’s certainly a great storyteller.

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