Review: Of Blood Exhausted.

A lovely review for Book 3 of the Blandford Candy series (Of Blood Exhausted) from Richard Warren at the Oliver Cromwell Association, in the latest edition of The Protectors Pen.

‘Of Blood Exhausted’ by Jemahl Evans

This is the third installment of Evans’ Adventures of Sir Blandford Candy series, and the most accomplished yet. Candy is, as the book blurb says, a ‘C17th Flashman’, and the series offers an ‘eyewitness’ view of the events and personalities of the Civil Wars from the perspective of a less-than-godly Parliamentarian officer and Scout. In truth, Candy is far less a dyed-in-the-wool rotter than Flashman, lacking the latter’s cowardice and his wine and wenching being less central to the story, so even those ‘of tender conscience’ can probably enjoy these books!

This book begins in late 1644, and differs from the earlier ones in not putting Candy at the centre of the major events of the period (though he does participate in the Battle of Naseby) but touching on them in parallel with the main narrative, often using contemporary newsbook reports on such things as Second Newbury and the creation of the New Model Army. Candy himself is mainly involved in trying to thwart an assassination plot concerning an important foreign visitor to London, and the book is all the more coherent for this focus on its own story rather than using the narrative mainly as a device to get the characters to the right place at the right time. There is plenty of period detail to delight and intrigue, but the very considerable learning on display is used lightly and never didactically, and the book would read as well for the newcomer as for the expert in the period. The ugliness of much of C17th life, and of civil war in particular, is well brought out – this is not a conflict fought by beer-filled reenactors enjoying a fun weekend.

The first two books, The Last Roundhead and This Deceitful Light, have more ‘Civil War’ interest, with Oliver Cromwell, both ‘ours’ and his ill-fated son, featuring strongly in the second one, but for my money, or should I say ‘coin’, this is the best-constructed and best-written of the series. Start at the beginning, but should you find the first book not entirely to your taste I’d recommend persisting as Evans seems to be developing into a very good writer indeed, and it is always good to have something to read about our period which is not indulgent of the Wrong but Wromantic royalists but looks at events from the side of the Honest Party.

Richard Warren.

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