After the final dreadful battle in the mud and cold of the Crimea, there could hardly be a greater contrast - 'Fancy Jack' Crossman, minus a hand, and newly promoted to Lieutenant, finds himself taking ship for the heat and excitement of India. He is to assist the East India Company Army in gathering intelligence at a time when there are ominous signs of restlessness amongst the native troops. Crossman lands at Bombay, expecting to make his way north to the Punjab region where he will be seconded to the irregular infantry force known as Coke's Rifles. Accompanying him is Sgt Farrier Jones, a military cartographer. Jones is a highly intelligent man, educated at a village church school. Yet Crossman, himself risen from the ranks, sees nothing of his former self in Jones and believes the sergeant is reaching too high. The two men do not get on. Then Crossman meets the Maharaja of Rajputan who offers him a third companion on his journey to the Punjab, a tall and sullen Rajput, who has no desire to be the bodyguard of a British officer. The unlikely trio undergo several trials and adventures before being swept up in the Indian Mutiny of 1857 and the march to relieve Delhi.