Reviews: Fiction

Cossacks in Paris

Perren, Jeffrey.  Cossacks in Paris. ClioStory Publishing, 2013. 461 p. ISBN # 9781626463707. Softcover. $11.99 (Kindle/Nook: $3.99)

This is an historical fantasy beginning in 1812 following the adventures of three primary characters, Breutier, Kaarina and Agripin from their homes to Saint-Petersburg and ending in Paris in 1814.  The improbable plot places these characters in a variety of historical events and in the presence of a variety of historical people allowing them to directly shape the course of history.

Each of the primary characters is drawn reluctantly into the course of world events.  Breutier Armand, a French engineer working on the sewers of Paris is pulled from this passion to spy on Russia's defenses prior to Napoleon's 1812 Campaign against them.  Kaarina Armfelt and her twin sister Kaisa are brought from their native Finland by their diplomat father Gustav to Saint-Petersburg to ostensibly find them suitable husbands.  Agripin, although not happy in his adoptive Cossack village, is called to Saint-Petersburg by the Tsar to be further toyed with as a court favorite.  After love at first sight between Kaarina and Breutier and their immediate consummation of their passions, follows a series of kidnappings, chases, imprisonments, escapes, and fights with all imaginable weapons, which are interwoven with world events and bringing them into dealings with many major historical personages. 

While all drawn into conflict, not of their choosing, each character deals with their own passions and events uniquely.  Agripin, although a Cossack by chance and feeling not a part of that society, finds himself becoming as brutish and barbarous as them, seeking to take Kaarina by force and enslavement when denied her affection and respect.  Kaarina, who chides her salacious sister for her sexual romanticism finds herself hopping into bed and impregnated by the first person she feels worthy of her intelligence.  Breutier, while supposedly a pacific scientist devoid of emotion, becomes the force that destroys Napoleon's army single handedly at Leipzig while impassioned to chase over half of Europe a woman.  The characters are heroic in nature and superhuman in their abilities.  Perren has also included dozens of lesser characters that span the spectrum of society.

Perren's treatment of historical figures is capricious, with some being dealt with harshly, others gently and some with astonishingly undeserved reverence.  Historical events, real and imagined, are also treated with varying degrees of detail and accuracy.  I would refer any potential reader to scan the author's "Historical Notes," in the back of the book for an explanation of the author's feelings about history.  In his own words, "those looking to learn the history of Europe and Napoleon's role in it during the years 1812-1814 should seek elsewhere."  Further his practice is to avoid "adherence to historical fact."  Be that as it may, I tried to imagine myself reading this book as a child without any knowledge of Napoleon or the campaigns of the period, and I would say that Perren does a creditable job in introducing the characters and events involved in a reasonable chronology.  Knowing that it is fiction may lead a smart person to do more research and maybe even become interested in the Napoleonic period which is something I would be happy with.

Reviewed by Greg Gorsuch
Placed on the Napoleon Series: July 2013



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