Afghanistan's treacherous terrain has been the site of many international battles prior to the current conflict.
In this recent reprint, Henty opens history's door on England's second war on that foreign soil. (The devastating first war was chronicled in Henty's recently reprinted volume, To Herat and Cabul available from the publishers.) This second war was the result of the British attempt to prevent Russian representation from being rooted in the court of the Afghan ameer. Once this foothold was firmly established, the Russians could move toward accomplishing their long-standing goal — the conquest of India.
The reader is taken to Afghanistan through the experiences of young William Gale. Kidnapped by a revengeful gypsy, the child spends his years in a workhouse. Even as a youth his motivation and manners mark him as a gifted young man.
After leaving the workhouse he is able to find employment aboard a fishing vessel. But a shipwreck leaves him the sole survivor; after being rescued, he is transported to the Malay Islands where he and his friend, Hans, are marooned and must use all their wits to escape death at the hands of the natives. Their narrow escape evidences God's providence and Will's quick thinking and rapid action. These adventures are preparation for the arduous labors that the newly enlisted teenager endures in the steep mountain passages and hostile cities of Afghanistan.
Will often escapes death's cold grasp in the midst of being besieged and captured, as well as in illness. As the reader follows Will's adventures, he finally learns whether or not this war ended differently for the British than did their earlier war in Afghanistan.
But the reader can close the book at its end with far more than the satisfaction that accompanies reading an action-packed account of a young hero who remains faithful and fervent amid almost overwhelming incidents. On page after page, the reader learns of the character of the Afghan people. The country is really a number of tribes within a geographical boundary rather than a united people. The seriousness with which the Afghans employ Islamic teaching to drive out the infidel (in this instance, the British) is also evidenced in the book Amid the backdrop of the Afghan war, the importance of friendship, faithfulness, and appropriate fearlessness are seen repeatedly. This book presents the opportunity to learn little known, but important, history regarding the 1870s in Afghanistan. Again Henty has provided a book that is a good read and good history.