If you are looking for a page-turning historical novel that explores race and class in the late 18th century, as well as being filled with action and engaging characters, then read Ranger.
Laced with intrigue, war and the complexity of racial prejudice within English political spheres, Ranger provides an enjoyable account of one man’s journey to explore his past and how this will affect his future.
The protagonist Chart, although a member of upper-class English society, is consistently confronted with racism for the colour of his skin. Ashby creates a strong narrative, mixing fact and fiction with the introduction of William Wilberforce. Also, Julien Fédon, the French revolutionary who inspired the rebellion in Grenada, is an integral character in the latter half of the novel. Ashby also identifies and reminds the reader of the European backdrop of the French revolution where the terms Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité resonate.
As we follow Chart’s journey back to Grenada after his spiteful cousin, Pemb, orchestrates Chart’s removal from England, we see the confusion in Chart’s identity and his loss at a sense of place in an eighteenth-century world: “I am not one of them! I am not a slave. This is all a dreadful mistake!”.
But Ranger is a story of redemption and courage. Ashby touches upon a number of issues, but he also knows how to create drama and put together set piece action scenes.
The storm of war will continue – and I look forward to reading further titles in the series.
Camilla Bolton is an Assistant Editor at Aspects of History.