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A Review of Through Russian Snows: A Story of Napoleon's Retreat from Moscow

What happens when the hunters become the hunted? Napoleon’s army was in this very position in their 1814 retreat from deep within frigid Russia.

  • Byron Snapp,
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What happens when the hunters become the hunted? Napoleon’s army was in this very position in their 1814 retreat from deep within frigid Russia. Henty develops this retreat and the relentless pursuit of the Russian army and peasants by unfolding the account of two fictional English brothers separated in their teen years.

Frank and Julian Wyatt, having been orphaned, are raised by their easy-going aunt. The brothers, being of differing temperament and unrestrained by their aunt, go their separate ways in their use of time and talents.

Julian soon falls in with the wrong crowd and is arrested with a number of smugglers. Although acquitted, a vengeful judge, who brought an accusation against him, vows to get him. When the judge is found murdered and Julian is missing, all fingers of circumstantial evidence point to Julian. Julian’s misconstrued flight leads him into more danger than he can easily handle and prompts Frank to search for the truth and for his brother.

Unbeknownst to one another, the two end up in Russia on opposite sides as a result of a turn of events that could only point to God’s good providence. Henty allows the reader to travel with Napoleon’s army as it enters Russia full of high spirits and hopes for an easy victory. These optimistic hopes of the invaders are never to be realized.

The army’s subsequent retreat is hindered by weather, weakness, and the wily, willful action of the Russian citizens. In the midst of the retreat, young Julian, a member of the rear guard, takes an opportunity, against the advice of fellow soldiers, to show mercy to a stranger who is at death’s door. His self-sacrificing kindness has a great consequence for him and his brother, Frank, a member of the British forces. As in his other works Henty knits all threads of the story into a fitting conclusion that will capture the attention of adults and youth.

The author deftly works positive and negative moral lessons into a factual, historical account. The reader will have an opportunity to ponder the importance of consistent watch care over the young by parents and guardians, and the danger of bad company. The danger of pride being one’s guide can be easily seen at numerous points. The bond of family, the importance of character, and the esteeming of others as better than ourselves shine through clearly in the story.

This is another account that Henty fans will not want to miss. For new Henty readers, this is a good introduction to his skill as a storyteller against the backdrop of factual history.

These hardback volumes continue to be published on acid-free paper. An additional bonus with this volume is the printing on the back of the books of the date, location, and main historical event around which the story is woven. This is another manifestation of the publisher’s desire to put into the reader’s hand a volume that can endure for years and enhance our understanding of a historical event.

  • Byron Snapp

Byron Snapp is a graduate of King College (B.A.) and Reformed Theological Seminary (M.Div.). He was Associate Pastor at Calvary Reformed Presbyterian Church, Hampton, Virginia, from 1994 until his retirement in December 2014. He is a native of Marion, Virginia.  He has had pastorates in Leakesville, Mississippi, and Gaffney, South Carolina.  He served as Assistant Pastor in Cedar Bluff, Virginia prior to his ministry at Calvary Reformed. He has served as editor of the Presbyterian Witness and was a contributor to A Comprehensive Faith and Election Day Sermons. He is currently a member of Westminster Presbytery in the PCA. He and his wife Janey have 3 children and several grandchildren. 

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