A skillful retelling of a celebrated Victorian military engagement: the rebel siege of the north Indian city of Cawnpore during the Indian Mutiny of 1857. When Indian soldiers rose up and slaughtered their own officers, the British public was stunned at their treachery. Astonishment turned to horror as rebels killed European civilians and Indian Christians who had taken refuge in North Indian cities. The slaughter of European women and children led to a far more brutal and indiscriminate British retaliation. Readers in Victorian England had an insatiable appetite for harrowing tales of the mutiny, and European survivors of these events published dozens of histories and memoirs. Journalist Ward follows them closely in his story of the shocking events at Cawnpore, where European soldiers were massacred after being guaranteed safe passage by the local ruler, Nana Sahib, and his treacherous adviser, Azimullah. After harsh imprisonment, the surviving women and children were hacked to pieces and their bodies stuffed into a well. Enraged at the discovery of what had been done, and inflamed by false accusations of rape, British soldiers forced defeated Indian rebels to lick up the blood of European victims, then executed thousands of them. Some were strapped to cannons and blown to bits. For decades after the mutiny, any publication presenting the Indian point of view was banned by the British ruler of India. Ward (whose 1985 novel, Blood Seed, dealt with the aftermath of the mutiny) recognizes the British bias of his sources and tries to read between the lines in search of an Indian point of view. But it is perhaps inevitable that the passion of his book comes from its European sources. Ward's gripping account of heroism and cruelty falls short in its attempt to be fair to Indian as well as British victims. (40 illustrations, not seen).