3 out of 5 stars

A copy of this was provided free of charge from the publisher in return for an honest review.

It is 1837 and the Carlist Wars are at their height. A young man by the name of Rudolf von Wielemann arrives to help in the struggle. He is not there completely by choice as he has been lent on heavily by his family as his father thinks that assisting in the war with the Carlists against the liberals will be honour for the family name. He is bearing an introductory letter from his uncle. However, this young man is completely out of sorts, he has had a well to do upbringing with a passion for music and had an ordered comfortable life. But here in Spain, he is utterly out of his depth.

For a start, he barely speaks the language, Catalan and the dialect that they speak in the region that he is in is another level of difficulty. He has gone from his ordered and organised life in a civilised part of northern Europe to the chaos of war. They are not quite sure what to do with this tall Prussian but eventually find him a task but he is not really suited to it.

He makes friends with Dr Miguel Foraster and captivates him with his musical ability. But it is time to move into war and he is put in charge of a platoon of men, who are better known as the Shambolic Six, as the liberals carry out their attacks.

I liked this book overall, the prose is richly detailed and full of vivid descriptions. It is full of subtle nuanced humour, especially between von Wielemann and the men he is in charge of. But it is a layered story too, part of the book is about the discovery of the papers that von Wielemann left and how the narrator of the book, Raül, is teasing out the details and working with a publisher to write a book. I must admit that it took me a short while to work out that the story was jumping back and forwards from a historical plot to an autobiographical part as the author wonders about the man he is researching and hopes that the editor will like his writings about him.

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