HARRY RYDER doesn’t like the army much. The commanders are incompetent, commissions are awarded by purchase rather than ability, and corruption and cronyism have become almost a tradition. Even the most senior officers can be crushed by the system, and when his own father falls a victim Ryder wants nothing to do with the army ever again.
But he has no choice. Soldiering is the only life he knows, the one thing he’s trained for, and the politics don’t seem to matter so much when it comes to a battle. He doesn’t fight for Queen and Country, he doesn’t even fight for glory; he fights for himself and the men around him, and the only thing that matters is to win.
Or so, at least, he thinks. Ryder is only eighteen when the series begins, and he has a lot of learning ahead of him. He can run away from his past, but when he makes the mistake of forming friendships, he finds it is not so easy to escape responsibility. He begins Into the Valley of Death as a lowly NCO in the 13th Light Dragoons, but circumstances and experience force him finally into a different role, and when at last he dons the red coat of the infantry he is already well on his way to becoming a fully-fledged ‘Soldier of the Queen’.
His journey will take him through the full horrors of the Crimean campaign – and, I hope, beyond. This was the time of Victoria’s ‘Little Wars’, when the British Empire was in almost constant conflict, from the Chinese Opium Wars to the Abyssinian Expedition and the Ashanti Wars, from the Indian Mutiny to the Zulu War. It was a time of action and initiative when any young man might yearn to make a name for himself – especially if the name he wants to make is already his own…