Review: The Last Legionnaire – Paul Fraser Collard

5 of 5 stars

My version: Paperback
Historical Fiction Napoleonic wars

London. 1859. After years fighting for Queen and country, Jack Lark walks back into his mother’s East End gin palace. a changed man. Haunted by the horrors of battle, and the constant fight for survival, he longs for a life to call his own. But everything and everyone around him has altered beyond recognition, and Jack no longer belongs there.

A desperate moment leaves him indebted to the Devil – intelligence officer Major John Ballard, who leads Jack to the battlefield with a task he can’t refuse. He tried to deny being a soldier once. He won’t make the same mistake again.

The armies of Europe are about to go to war. Jack Lark will march with them.

Jack Lark is now proving he is much more than a one trick pony. He hasn’t really ever, just impersonated a soldier, his ability has shone through whichever conflict he has found himself, but that ability has, because of his impersonations, been appropriated by the character he has ‘hidden’ in. He is a soldier, through and through and in Legionnaire, he perhaps comes to realise that is the truth, no matter how hard he tries to think, and make others believe, differently. He can escape the life around him by impersonating others, but he can’t escape who he is. He hasn’t really come to terms with that as yet, with its attendant baggage of killing and bleeding, but maybe he’s on the way there. Though, I suppose, it could be argued if he does come to terms with it, then madness can’t be far off. If it is, it doesn’t happen here. Yes, he is in another army’s uniform for the fighting, but it’s almost not intentional.

SPEESH READS FACT DEPT: Just about perfect, cliché-free Historical Fiction. I’ve checked.

The return to his old stamping grounds is superbly drawn by PFC, bleak and desperate. People more or less abandoned to their fate by the rest of the country. Hard to call it home or have fond memories of, unless you’ve escaped. There’s no doubt that Jack will have to get away and the conflict, desperation and guilt he feels is conveyed masterfully. If you’ve paid for the battles, then you’ll also be amply rewarded. But be prepared, it isn’t an easy ride, as Jack fights the only way he can, and PFC writes the way it should be written – in the middle, at the sharp end down and dirty, in the mud, the blood and the beer. Well, maybe not beer…gin?

Previously, Jack fought as different people by appropriating their uniform, so people don’t know who he is. Here, the search for an identity, is mostly internal. As he searches for the real Jack Lark. Who is he and what does Jack Lark want from his life next? It’s not a struggle that is, or is going to be, easy, but it’s one that will keep me (and many more) glued to his wonderful story.

You can buy The Last Legionnaire at

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