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January 1829: Cuts in the army mean that Matthew Hervey's Dragoons are to be reduced to a single squadron. With his long-term plans in disarray, Hervey undertakes a six-month assignment as an observer with the Russian army. Soon Hervey and his faithful groom, Private Johnson, are sailing north to St Petersburg, and on to the Eastern Balkans, seat of the ferocious war between Russia and the Ottoman Empire. For Hervey, the stakes have never been higher - or more personal.