Review: Peter Watt's latest novel is an adventure reader's delight

  • The Colonial's Son, by Peter Watt. Pan Macmillan, $32.99.

Peter Watt has written many books and has, no doubt, a tribe of loyal readers. It is not hard to understand why.

This book, the first of his that I have read, is an adventure reader's delight.

Fast-paced, with remarkable scene shifts, the Palmer River Goldfields in North Queensland, Sydney, London, Kandahar, Berlin, the reader is left gasping for breath.

Rogues abound. Armed and murderous Chinese gangs on the goldfields, an evil and unscrupulous servant of the Governor in Sydney, maddened Afghan tribesmen, deluded assassins in Bavaria, even agitated former schoolfriends.

It is a breathtaking list. All seek to do our noble hero and his even more wondrous father down.

They fail. There are tightly described battle scenes when the Chinese and others seek to murder father and son around Cooktown, and more dangerously in the Second Afghan Wars when our young hero proves himself to be his father's son and then some.

In a murderous exchange in a Bavarian forest, thugs in the pay of an evil uncle and aunt come within an inch of finishing the lives of an incoming duchess, her regal fiancée, and our hero.

I was breathless as I read. I was hopeful that our boy would live to marry the love of his life, the daughter of a Victoria Cross holder from the First Afghanistan War and our hero's father's closest mate.

For those readers worrying about the fast-paced adventure, there is tons of romance in store as well.

The widowed father finds true love in the arms of an extremely wealthy Sydney socialite, and our hero, after a variety of flirtations, finds true love in London.

Phew! The reader may struggle to keep up with all this. Until she realises this is an elaborate fantasy masquerading as historical fiction.

There is nothing wrong with fantasy as movie producers know. Taken to the edge of horror and death the reader is almost breathless in anxiety, but fantasy means the good will always triumph. As here it does.

Take the hero's father's determination to rid the world of an upper class rapist.

With another, loyal beyond belief, they finish off the high-flown bureaucrat, in an ambush on the Blue Mountains ranges.

Enter Sergeant Plod. Let's see: motivation, money, personal or lust? Though the Governor wants the murder sheeted home to the miscreant, Plod fails to ask even rudimentary questions and the hero's father walks scot free.

If you love fantasy, a smattering of history, and jolly good outcomes for the Empire, dashing men and beautiful women, action aplenty and loyal sons of the Queen this is the book for you.

This story A breathless adventure told at breakneck speed first appeared on The Canberra Times.