Thursday, 14 May 2015

Review by Karen Andreas: The White Rajah

The White Rajah by Tom Williams

Please note that the giveaway is no longer valid!

Journey into the Heart of Sarawak

A chance encounter with the well-born British adventurer James Brooke in an English tavern changes the life of John Williamson forever. Beginning in the 1830s, this lad from humble beginnings falls in with James and his friends and heads to the other side of the world to adventures unimagined.

John is the story teller here, and his is an authentic voice, reflecting the attitudes and values of his time.  He is well aware of the social gap between him and his hero, James, which makes James’ egalitarian views more profound. Through John’s eyes, James grows from an idealist to a pragmatic ruler as his ambitions for his new country evolve.  

After initial failure, James succeeds in his next attempt to establish a trading foothold in Borneo. He finds himself in the middle of an insurgent movement to overthrow the sultan. It is there that he shines, and James is instrumental in the sultan regaining his throne. As a result, James is appointed the rajah of Sarawak, a small country populated by its native tribes, Malays and the Chinese who have created a trading base.      

This book works on so many levels. It is first and foremost an intimate look on how a white man came to Borneo and painstakingly created a place for himself – and for his new people – in the world. It’s not blood and guts glory, overrunning a country and forcing the white man’s will. James must manage the diverse cultures in Sarawak, establish sound finances for the country and create a portal for the trade of Sarawak’s most valuable commodity, antimony, while protecting the people from exploitation. Interwoven with all these goals are strong personalities and peril. There is military genius at work, of course, but also patience and pride.  

Even more interesting is the piracy that is such a part of Sarawak’s culture. This piracy occurs mainly in the interior of the country – and an entire economy is dependent on destruction and theft. James must root out the pirate tribes to protect the growing trade and financial interests in Sarawak. Apparent success blinds him to the dangers lurking in the jungle, and in a sudden and shocking moment, James faces losing all he has built for his people, for himself and John.

Through it all, John watches with admiration and love as James succeeds and moves forward – and away. Small moments portend great changes – even victories have unintended consequences. A casual kiss leads to an eventual relationship between the hero worshiper and hero. James’ humanity and care for his subjects belies an ambition unleashed at the moment of an execution that opens the door to rule.  The aftermath of the shocking revolt throws up walls that separate more than the outside from the inside.

These are, of course, men of their times, and so lovers’ passion never rules in this story. Military, political and financial pragmatism are the tools James uses to build his country and a successful, beloved dynasty that lasts into the twentieth century. James’ ability to attract talented men is crucial – as is his ability to know when to cut loose these same men. The struggles faced by James and John to navigate life and death, success and failure which often march side by side, are compelling.  

What an odd and interesting story about a part of the world most do not know. An English adventurer brings Sarawak into the stream of civilization, and, in the end, becomes the beloved White Rajah.

For your chance to win a FREE COPY of The White Rajah, simply comment below OR at this review's Facebook thread, located here.

We will draw a random winner from comments. 

About the Author (in his own words…) 

I live in Richmond, which is nice and on the outskirts of London, which is a truly amazing city to live in. My wife is beautiful but, more importantly, she's a lawyer, which is handy because a household with a writer in it always needs someone who can earn decent money. 

I street skate and ski and can dance a mean Argentine tango. I've spent a lot of my life writing very boring things for money (unless you're in customer care, in which case 'Dealing With Customer Complaints' is really, really interesting). Now I'm writing for fun. OK, The White Rajah isn't exactly a bundle of laughs but it has pirates and battles and an evil villain and it's a lot more fun than a review of the impact of legal advice on debt management. 

Readers can learn more about Tom Williams and his books at his blog as well as his Amazon and Amazon UK author pages. He can also be found at Twitter and Facebook


Karen Andreas lives in Florida with three cats, one horse, oh, and her husband Michael. She is the former editor and now contributing writer to the Florida Council of Bromeliad Societies; together Karen and Michael serve as webmasters


  1. Karen's review has hooked me, and therefore, _The White Rajah_ has been placed on my TBR list.

  2. From the title, I thought the book was set in India. But Borneo and Sarawak are even more exotic places, which I only know from my mother's old stamp album. This sounds like a most interesting story. Good review.

  3. Captivating review and premise for a book, im enthralled. Also i love the cover so this novel will be put on my reading list.

  4. Fantastic review Karen. I think this might just be one for the shelf.