Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Royal Flash - Chapter 8

Chapter 8 of Royal Flash is another long one and packed full of action. If chapter 7 was bawdy farce, then chapter 8 has Harry buckling on his swash.

Once he’s fallen into the hands of the Sons of the Volsung (the Danish nationalist movement that has captured Flashman, who are as intent on keeping Strackenz in Danish hands as Bismarck is to bring it under German control), he has to lie to stay alive, although he didn’t lie as much as I had expected. He basically gives them the story of how he came to impersonate Carl Gustaf, just changing it subtly to imply that he was an innocent British soldier whose only real crime was to bear a remarkable resemblance to the Danish royal. He also added a wife and child (little golden haired Amelia) to help his cause and changed his name to Thomas Arnold. I’m sure even Flashman found it rather ironic that the only alias he could come up with on short notice was that of a man he both despised and feared.

The Sons swallow the story and Harry’s real ace in the hole is that he knows Carl Gustaf is alive and where he’s being held. The Sons suspected, but they didn’t KNOW. They, mainly driven by Hansen, come up with a mad boys own rescue scheme. Unfortunately for Flashman he’s going to be part of the rescue team. When stripping down for the swim through the Jotunsee into Jotunberg Hansen sees and is impressed by Harry’s collection of war wounds (he has weals on his back from Gul Shah’s torture, a scar on his thigh where his leg was broken at Piper’s Fort and another on his hip where a rifle ball hit him), the wounds all seem to have been gathered in Flashman, which was at the time the only book out, I’ll definitely have to check the texts of Flashman’s Lady and Flashman and the Mountain of Light to see if there were any continuity slip ups, as while those two volumes came out after Royal Flash, they take place in between the 1st 3rd and the final 2 3rds.

Hansen is killed almost as soon as the two men enter Jotunberg. Rudi was waiting and got the Dane with a blade between the shoulders. Flashman was lucky that he too wasn’t killed, and possibly wasn’t because Starnberg has a rather twisted sense of humour and thought it would be amusing to taunt Carl Gustaf with his double. Despite the situation Flashman took a bit of perverse amusement in that both Carl Gustaf and Hansen could tell him from the real thing because the duelling scars were slightly off line, this makes him realise that Bismarck was capable of making a mistake.

Rudi makes an offer to Flashman, as far as he can see Bismarck’s plan is shot and the entire continent is rising up in revolt. It was true, too. 1848 could have very well been named The Year of Revolution. As the world goes it was probably a game changing year in history and laid the logs for the fire that would engulf the world in 1914. In the early years of the 20th century the old soldier and political in Flashman can see the writing on the wall and knows what is going to happen very soon. On a side note Flashman has a cameo in George MacDonald Fraser’s book Mr American, and readers see his reaction to the declaration of WW I. Rudi believes that he and Flashman can kill Carl Gustaf and then have the Englishman play the prince for long enough that the two of them can make a fortune out of it. He doesn’t really outline what he plans to do, but I’d be willing to bet it’s got something to do with the Strackenz’s rather impressive collection of crown jewels. By this stage all Harry wants to do is get the hell out. He manages to get the drop on Starnberg with a wine bottle and tries to make his escape. Before he can do so Rudi recovers and the two men fight it out blade to blade, Flashman is lucky to save his own life and the prince’s, but he does with the rest of the Sons turning up in the nick of time. Starnberg flees and Harry falls into the Jotunsee. Once again he cheats death and survives, even then it takes the word of Carl Gustaf to prevent the Sons from killing him and the chapter ends with him having survived against the odds yet again.

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