The twenty first century is not the first time attention has been turned to warfare in far off Afghanistan. In this volume, Henty takes his readers to the war-torn mountains and valleys of that nation in the mid-nineteenth century.
In the 1830s and 40s, political intrigues made Afghanistan a pawn in the plans of two scheming powers — Russia and Great Britain. Henty takes the reader into the epicenter of British bumbling through the eyes, and experiences of the book's hero, Angus Campbell.
This recently orphaned teenager journeys to Herat and endures Persia's long siege and failed to attempt to capture this western Afghan city. There he not only becomes acquainted with the ferocity of the Afghan defenders, but also with the Russian influence through Persia to control the country. Against the wisdom of local British leaders, higher authorities plan to depose the current ruler Dost Mohammed and replace him with one in their power, Shad Soajah. This ill-thought-out plan has disastrous consequences for the British army.
The Afghan discovery of this British goal places Angus at great risk in his many travels on behalf of the British military. His faculty in learning and mastering the numerous area languages and his faithfulness and fearlessness in the line of duty make him a valuable asset to the military leaders. To fulfill his duties he travels through enemy lines and across rugged territory that acquaints the reader with Afghan terrain, tribal relationships, and the Islamic worldview.
His success often depends on his quick thinking and quiet demeanor. His disguises do not prevent him from the preconceived plans of traitors or landing in local prisons. His devotion to duty does not deter his aid to a wounded foe.
His desire for victory cannot displace the ineptness of local British leaders. In the midst of furious foes, these leaders are indecisive and inept. This leads to disastrous results which Angus views from a distance due to a surprising event he experiences.
Henty rewards the reader with another hero who exhibits qualities of respect, resourcefulness, and resolve, all of which must often be used in a variety of events and environments. The reader also becomes acquainted with the love the Afghans have for their own country and the high price the British paid in men and materials in one of the darkest chapters in British foreign policy.