Title: The Black Lions of Flanders (King’s Germans Book 1)
Author: Dominic Fielder
Genre: Historical Fiction
The Coffee Pot Book Club Book Of The Year Award 2018 — Special Award for Debut Historical Fiction
February 1793. King Louis XVI has been executed and the new Revolutionary Government of France declares war on the major powers of Europe. Drawn into the conflict, George III, ruler of Great Britain and Elector of Hanover has promised to send an army. In truth, there are few British redcoats to be spared and in this moment of national emergency, loyalty is demanded from the Hanoverian state. The King’s Germans are ill-prepared for such a command!
Private Sebastian Krombach, a young and idealistic recruit finds the army to be little of the life he supposed. He survives the harsh regime of training and camp life but the road to war is equally perilous. Short on promised pay and fresh food, the redcoats riot at Halle. Krombach finds himself under suspicion of involvement.
Captain Werner Brandt has promised his wife that he will resign his commission. But newly arrived Colonel Jacob Neuberg is a persuasive man and Brandt finds himself agreeing to leave the Grenadier company and assume command of troubled 2nd Company. Brandt’s support of the new colonel is vital as Neuberg is beset by powerful enemies at every turn. Leading his men, Brandt’s Company, into the fire and chaos of Rumes, he must the rescue 1st Grenadiers and his friend, Erich von Bomm.
When news of war arrives, Erich von Bomm is transferred to the ‘1st Grenadiers’ but trouble dogs him. His new promotion does not last long. Leopold Baumann arrives to assume the captaincy and seek vengeance against von Bomm over a supposed slight. Baumann’s Company is sent to the lonely outpost at Rumes where von Bomm disobeys Baumann’s direct order leaving the battle and his military career in the balance.
Interwoven into the Kings German’s preparations for war and their first action at Rumes story are a series of stories from the perspectives of allies and enemies alike.
Cornishman Stephen Trevethan is a British engineer sent to Holland to aid the Duke of York. Once there, Trevethan is instrumental in foiling the plot to storm the key fortress of Willemstadt. Trevethan strikes a ready friendship with the Commissary General Brookes Jackson, a Devonian. The bond between the pair strengthens as the unwelcome political interferences from London and distrust for their European allies deepen.
In Dunkirk, Jean-Baptiste Mahieu an experienced French soldier, leaves a violent town on the brink of starvation to join his new battalion, the ‘Black Lions’. The battalion is a mixture of veteran soldiers from the King’s army and new recruits pressed into the revolutionary cause. Mahieu quickly becomes a sergeant. Despite the political interfering from Paris and personal ambitions of General Dumouriez, he is pivotal in keeping his soldiers alive when the Black Lions are treated as expendable.
General Francois Dumouriez, a mercurial figure with ambitions beyond restoring the Bourbon monarchy, plans a campaign to drive the British from Holland, with the help of Serge Genet, his chief of intelligence. Mahieu’s brother, Arnaud a smuggler and captain of the Perseus, is drawn into General Dumouriez’ scheming. Involved in the failed attempt to capture a Dutch fort and drive the British from Holland Mahieu forms a strong friendship with a dragoon captain, Julian Beauvais.
Beauvais, who received a scarring facial wound in saving Dumouriez’ life has become part of the General’s inner circle and faces a growing realisation that Dumouriez’ lust for power is unlimited. The dragoon captain meets and falls in love with the beautiful Juliette, Countess of Marboré. Another of Dumouriez’ pawns, she is sent to help strike the alliance with Austria.
Friend and foe know one simple truth: trust your ally at your own peril.
Bloodthirsty France has just declared war on all of Europe and with it, the balance of power shifts. King Louis XVI has lost his head and with it, chaos ensues. Great Britain vows to send an army but with redcoats hard to come by, he demands the King’s Germans are called to action. Political jockeying from all sides puts the lives of soldiers at risk and carnage dots the countryside. Who is friend and who is foe? No one knows, least of all the Black Lions, but as they band together to defeat anyone who crosses their path, one thing is clear: trust only your weapon to keep you alive.
The Black Lions of Flanders is an incredible fictional account of this period of European history. I’ve studied this time period from the French point of view but was unprepared for the sheer bloodbath which took place. Dominic Fielder’s intricate research is clear when reading this book. He draws you in from the first page and plunges you into late 18th century Europe with the same ease as a tour director. The stark storytelling is reminiscent of The Vikings, giving the reader an experience unlike anything they’ve read before.
Character-driven, The Black Lions of Flanders is a feast for any history fan. The characters shed light on every facet from everyday life of a soldier to the political unrest to the effects of war on the average citizen. Breathtaking and will change your mind about what it was like to live in Europe during this time period. A must-read!
My Rating: 5 stars
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Dominic Fielder (1968-present) was born in Plymouth to parents of families from Roman Catholic and Protestant backgrounds. Then such things mattered to others but not to a first-born son who knew only love and a stable happy family. Two brothers made for a warm and somewhat idyllic childhood. He was bright but a disengaged student preferring instead to spend time with his dad at the family book business (the Bookstall) where a love of literacy flourished. Having finished sixth-form at Devonport High School for Boys, he passed opportunities to join first, the Tank Regiment, then the Royal Air Force, settling instead on a career in banking. Three years later, fed up with counting other people’s money, he travelled to Australia for a year, working for a time in the Outback and thoroughly enjoying life!
On returning to the UK, he drifted into work at his family’s Comic Shop (Kathies Comics). Despite fifteen years of hard work, the business failed and so did his marriage. Working a series of odd jobs, with odd hours, he finished a degree course in History, gaining a First and drifted into the world of education. Now he divides his time unequally between private tuition, running the family book business which has survived for sixty years and writing. More important than all of these, is spending time with his son. With what free time he has, he enjoys cycling, walking and horse-riding on the moors that surround his home in Mary Tavy, Devon.
His passion and interest for as many years as he can care to remember has been ‘little model soldiers’, painting them, researching facts about the regiments and playing wargames with them. For a dozen years or more, Dominic ran a series of ‘Megagames’ where people would arrive from all corners of the globe to game out World War Two scenarios for a week. Such events needed a strong narrative and his first attempts at writing were contained within the pre-game intelligence and the post-action reports. His writing project, ‘The King’s Germans’ is a few steps further down that road. For the person who drifted from one task to another, it’s a commitment to write twenty-two years of the history of Hanoverian soldiers in the service of King George III.
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Reviewed by: Mrs. N