I received a gorgeous copy of this book from Hachette India as part of the Blog and Social Media Tour and Read-along. This did not affect my thoughts, experience or review in any way.
Author: Alex Rutherford
Page count: 448
Genres: Adult, Historical Fiction, Diverse, Inspired by True Events
Blurb as on Goodreads:
It is 1744, and Nicholas Ballantyne, a young Scotsman dreaming of a life as laird of his ancestral estate finds himself quite unexpectedly on the Winchester, a ship bound for Hindustan, seeking to begin a new life as a ‘writer’ on the rolls of the British East India Company. On board, he meets the spirited and mercurial Robert Clive, determined – at whatever cost – to make a fortune in a land of opportunity.
Over the years that follow, their friendship sees many twists and turns as Clive’s restless hunger for wealth and power takes him from being a clerk to a commander in the Company’s forces, masterminding plans to snuff out rival French interests in Hindustan and eventually leading the company forces to victory at Plassey, the prelude to nearly two centuries of foreign rule in Hindustan.
Brilliantly crafted, and bringing to life the momentous events that shook India in the mid-eighteenth century, Fortune’s Soldier is an epic tale of a fascinating era by a master storyteller.
This was my first time being part of a social media tour and read-along, so I was very excited to read this book and learn about a part of my history that’s always interested me. It’s a historical fiction novel inspired by true events – and my first read from this author – what better way to learn a bit of actual history than in the form of a story instead of a textbook’s dry chapters?!
The main character is a Scottish Highlander and if you didn’t know, I’m a huge fan of Outlander’s Jamie Fraser (and of the series itself). I wanted to see what was going on in India (then, Hindustan) especially from a Scotsman’s perspective during the time that the Outlander series takes place in Scotland and France.
I was expecting this to be fast-paced, packed with action, war politics and a perfect amalgamation of fiction and non-fiction. It came close, but not quite.
Plot & Writing
This is a very character-driven story in the sense that there was no big bad ‘evil’ to fight at the end that the whole journey was in preparation for, as is the case with most of my usual reads.
The story begins with Nicholas traveling from Scotland to India right before the Jacobite Uprising and the Battle of Culloden that would see the end of the Highlander way of life. It was interesting to see Hindustan and the similarities and differences in the lives of people then as compared to now and Scotland/England as well. We follow Nicholas as he adjusts to life as a ‘writer’ in the East India Company – a ‘traitor’ to the English throne when his beloved uncle’s role in the Uprising is revealed – and then rises through the ranks through his sheer bravery, intelligence, and hard work.
We also get glimpses of Robert Clive’s progress up the Company ladder from soldier to a commander and how this changes him and his friendship with Nicholas. There isn’t really a plot with a beginning or end, but I’d say it’s the story of a life lived with loyalty, hope and the best intentions at heart.
The writing was easy to read for the most part, but the long sentences describing every little thing in minute detail messed with my concentration and made it hard for me to visualize the narrative. Because of the lengthy descriptions, the scenes seemed to drag on and lost some of the punch.
Nicholas was a wonderful character from his back story to his actions throughout and he played many roles over time – a brave, intelligent and strong soldier and spy, a loyal friend, and kind human, a loving father – just a very smart man, always trying to do the right thing. I enjoyed seeing things through his straightforward perspective.
Tuhin Singh was one of the best things that happened to Nicholas as Nicholas was probably the same to Clive. Clive‘s ambition, arrogance, and single-mindedness could have led him on a very different path had Nicholas not been there to ground him. It wasn’t a journey of how these characters grew over the arc of the story, but about who they were and how they lived from the beginning to the end at a time when there was so much rift between Hindustan, England, France, and Scotland, and among the many rulers and Nawabs within Hindustan itself.
It was a nice change from the books or genres I usually go for. I didn’t think too much about reality or fiction. I just wanted to know what’s going to happen in this story. Had it been a shorter read, with less detailed descriptions, I would have enjoyed it more despite there not being any extreme highs or lows. There were intense situations – the characters got into some sticky spots – but it didn’t keep me glued to the edge of my seat because of the average pace with too many details and information packed in. I feel it could have been written better for more of an impact.
I would recommend it to previous fans of Alex Rutherford and any lovers of Indian history who are somewhat familiar with this time period or wish to know more about the political atmosphere and daily lives of the people at the time.
My Rating: ⭐⭐⭐.75/5
Have you read this book yet? What did you think? Even if you haven’t read it, let’s chat! In the comments below, tell me about your favorite historical fiction novel. I’m always looking for recommendations. 🙂