Newly promoted, Major Richard Sharpe leads his small force into the biting cold of the winter mountains. His task: rescue a group of women who are being held hostage.
Born in Essex in 1944 Bernard Cornwell was adopted at the age of six weeks by two members of a strict fundamentalist sect called the Peculiar People. He grew up in a household that forbade alcohol, cigarettes, dances, television, conventional medicine and toy guns. Not surprisingly, he developed a fascination for military adventure. As a teenager he devoured CS Forester’s Hornblower novels and tried to enlist three times. Poor eyesight put paid to his dream, instead he went to university to read theology. On graduating, he became a teacher, then joined BBC’s Nationwide, working his way up the ladder to become head of current affairs at BBC Northern Ireland, then editor of Thames News. In 1979, his life changed when he fell in love with an American.
"Judy couldn’t live here, so I gave up my job and moved to the US. I couldn’t get a green card, and for 18 months the only thing I could do was write novels." The result was his first book about 19th century hero, Richard Sharpe, Sharpe’s Eagle.
Today he has 20 Sharpe adventures behind him, plus a series about the American Civil War, the Starbuck novels; an enormously successful trilogy about King Arthur, The Warlord Chronicles; the Hundred Years War set Grail Quest series; and his current series about King Alfred.
Bernard Cornwell owns houses in Cape Cod and Florida and two boats. Every year he takes two months off from his writing and spends most of his time on his 24 foot Cornish crabber, Royalist.--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
The time is late 1812 with Christmas approaching. A renegade army of British , Spanish , Portuguese , and French deserters have captured the "wife" of Colonel Sir Augustus Fotheringdale (what a name!), another of those rich and aristocratic and enormously egotistical bungling incompotents that seem to pop up regularly in these novels. Sharpe is selected to rescue the damsel in distress who is being held at an old castle and watchtower on the Northern border of Portugal , known as "the Gateway of God". He is provided by Wellington with two additional companies of riflemen and a batallion of Welsh Fusileers as reinforcements. Sharpe , now a Major , commands the rescue operation and manages to effect it with only minimal losses. The subsequent interference by Sir Augustus manages to result in the death of Colonel Kinney , the commander of the Fusileers , leaving Sharpe as the only experienced senior officer present. Also liberated is the wife of a French Colonel , who is returned promptly to her husband . The French seemingly have also mounted a rescue attempt , but only as a cover for an invasion of Portugal. Sharpe manages to uncover the scheme and settles in to thwart the French and brings them to battle , seeking to buy time for Wellington to respond.
There are many interesting twists and turns to the plot , in which Sharpe encounters his old mortal enemy , Obadiah Hakeswill , fights a battle , commands a batallion , and suffers a tragic loss.
This is one of the best Richard Sharpe novels ; not necessarily "the best" , but close enough. Five stars.