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Sharpe's Rifles: Richard Sharpe and the French Invasion of Galicia, January 1809 [Paperback]

Bernard Cornwell
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)

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Book Description

May 1 1995 Sharpe (Book 1)
A story of a battle against impossible odds and victory snatched from defeat is the smashing prequel to the action-packed Richard Sharpe adventure series.

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From Publishers Weekly

The eight previous books about Richard Sharpe, up-from-the-ranks infantry officer in H.M. Rifles, followed him from Talavera in 1809, battling Napoleon's armies across Iberia into France in early 1814. This "prequel" set in January 1809 has the new Lieutenant Sharpe trying to get his small English band away from the victorious French. Sharpe hopes to join the British outpost in Lisbon but is waylaid by a Spanish major of cavalry into helping him pull off a "miracle." The noble Major Vivar means to raise the flag of Spain's patron saint over Santiago de Compostela, now in French hands, as a sign that Spain will not be defeated. Readers of the earlier books will enjoy the usual smooth writing and vivid, occasionally quite gory, color. The battle scenes are thrillingly realistic and we always learn something: a macho , for example, is a mule whose vocal chords have been cut so that it can't bray and warn the enemy. The subplots revolve around Sharpe's making the recalcitrant Harper a sergeant, winning the respect of his troops and, alas, losing a fair young English girl.
Copyright 1988 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Library Journal

Sharpe may come to personify the British Army during the Napoleonic Wars in the same way that Horatio Hornblower does the Royal Navy. Sharpe's exploits during the Peninsular Campaigns (1809-14) have been chronicled in eight prior novels; this "prequel" is the story of Sharpe's first command. He becomes the leader of a force of Rifles cut off behind lines during the disastrous English retreat from Spain and battles not only crack French dragoons but also the fierce winter weather and the hostility of his men. A Spanish major offers aid if Sharpe will help with his own desperate mission to guarantee a Spanish victory. A crackling adventure yarn, sure to delight Sharpe's many fans. Charles Michaud, Turner Free Lib., Randolph, Mass.
Copyright 1988 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5 stars
4.7 out of 5 stars
Most helpful customer reviews
By Donald Mitchell #1 HALL OF FAME TOP 50 REVIEWER
Format:Mass Market Paperback
Many people compare the Hornblower books to the Sharpe novels and vice versa. The two series have little in common other than covering similar time periods in British history, one from the naval and the other from the military perspective. As his name suggests, Sharpe is quick-witted and as adaptable as a Swiss army knife. Hornblower is more cerebral and comfortable in his officer's role. Sharpe is initially a fish out of water when leading his men, and he knows it.

If you are like me, you've been reading these books in the order of the events they portray (rather than the order of publication). From that perspective, Sharpe's Rifles is the sixth in chronological order of events.

Since Sharpe was raised to be an ensign by saving the life of Sir Arthur Wellesley as the Battle of Assaye, he's been struggling. The Scottish regiments in India didn't want him because he is English. Posted to the 95th Rifles in England, the officers don't want him because he's not a gentleman born and the men don't respect him for the same reason. But he's seen as valuable in a quartermaster role where he can keep an eye on the tricks that soldiers use to fiddle the stores. Sharpe is a good quartermaster, but he wants to fight instead.

In Sharpe's Rifles, Sharpe comes unexpectedly to command a small group of the 95th Rifles during a disastrous retreat from the victorious French. He decides to take his men to Lisbon to find transport, but the men plan to head north instead. Immediately, Sharpe's authority is challenged and he fights back the only way he knows how . . . with his fists. Into that perilous moment steps a Spanish grandee, Major Blas Vivar, who persuades Sharpe to join forces with his cavalry troops who are carrying a mysterious chest to Santiago de Compostela.
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4.0 out of 5 stars The penisular wars begin. Sept. 1 2003
Sharpe's Rifles is the book in which Sharpe gets his first command. It's the bringing together of two characters that will see the peninsular wars to an end. Sharpe meets Harper for the first time in this book, and it not what I expected. It is however a great tale of how the two soldiers came together.
This book puts Sharpe in Spain, during the British retreat towards Corunna. This is a dark point for the British in the peninsular wars when French victory seems not so far off. Sharpe, while second in command of a detachment of riflemen cut off from the main British force, is soon to face the most challenging point of his career. Sharpe has to learn quickly when his commander gets killed and leaves him in charge. He needs to earn the respect of his men and lead them to victory. It's a great story and a great look at how Sharpe came to be so admired by his men. This book starts of many of the features that make the Sharpe series so great, it's a must read for all Sharpe fans.
4 Stars.
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5.0 out of 5 stars hear ye, hear ye, hear ye, Bernard is the man! Nov. 11 2002
By A Customer
Another fine book. Writer's like Cornwell, of which there are few, never cease to amaze. Prolific yet always profound. Dramatic yet believable. Characters at once unstoppable yet also fallible. Stories fictional yet grimly realistic. And he always pays a mind to the ladies. In this one I read quite amused as the central female character, an English girl separated from her overbearing Protestant missionary aunt and thrust into Sharpe's willing care, goes on and on to the hardened but smitten Sharpe about her love interests, while the screams of dying men echo about the city. Sharpe, heartbroken and shocked from not being the chosen one, shows his human side and heads off to get drunk and find cheaper love. This amidst the aftermath of another vicious battle.
The author is so savvy and such a subtle teacher and so infinitely wise to the ways of men and women and life in this world, that you find his works not only entertaining but also instructive. You learn when you read his books. Sharpe is the ultimate warrior in a gruesome campaign to rid the peninsula of the murderous and treacherous French. I find his work somewhat formulaic at times, but it matters not if there is always a mysterious and devious villain, an alluring and attractive woman, a great fighter, a stalwart and able companion and the willing and able veterans of his green jacketed rifles. If you haven't gotten into Mr. Cornwell's works, then I can only tell you that a gold mine of literature awaits you.
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5.0 out of 5 stars AIM!.........FIRE!.....FIX BAYONETS! Feb. 4 2002
After reading a number of C.S Forester's Hornblower series, I realized the appreciation I have for historical fiction that contains a main character's development throughout that particular historical era. The Sharpe's series is just another superb example of this.
This book is the first volume of the series, but not the first chronologically in the series. I personally would have preferred to start with 'Sharpe's Tiger' which is where Richard Sharpe begins his career as a Rifleman as a Private. Then continuing the readings chronologically following his military career.
In Sharpe's Rifles, LT. Richard Sharpe (formerly known as SGT. Sharpe) becomes the commanding officer of a small detachment of Rifleman whom becomes separated from a retreating British Army in Spain. While retreating, Sharpe is confronted with the difficulties of adjusting to the role of an Officer while being harassed from a persistent attachment of French Dragoons. His difficulties increase exponentially when Sharpe gains a common ally against France, a small attachment of Spanish Calvary. Sharpe learns that the Spanish Calvary attachment is on a quest to reunite Spain's demoralization with a sacred item that must reach Santiago to give Spain one last fighting chance against the invading French.
The smell of smoke, the war cries of combat, and the fate of brave men are well embedded throughout the book. This is an action packed book, page-turner that I would recommend to all interested in this era!
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Pure awesomeness
Great stepping stone in the path of Sharpe. I read the books first and saw the tv series after and then reread the book, and loved them even more. Read more
Published 17 months ago by Louis Archambault
2.0 out of 5 stars Sharpe's Rifles
The product is not bad, but the fact that it is an ex-library copy was not part of the description.
Published 21 months ago by Larry Hobson
5.0 out of 5 stars Sharpe's Rifles
Thanks for this excellent buy. The books in the Sharpe's series by Bernard Cormwell are now "semi-rare" and I was able to find this one on your web listing at a very reasonable... Read more
Published on Jan. 5 2010 by Amazon Customer
4.0 out of 5 stars Engaging Start to the Sharpe Series
This was my first foray into the Napoleonic historical fiction genre (including the Hornblower series as well as the Aubrey/Maturin books) and since I am more of a landlubber I... Read more
Published on Dec 28 2003 by C. Argent
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Action
Reading Napoleonic books can become a bit dull without some imagery to add to the mixture. This and the other books (along with the good if low-budget TV series) really bring... Read more
Published on April 27 2003 by D. A Butler
5.0 out of 5 stars Outstanding!
One of the best novels in the Sharpe series. Unlike later novels, in which Richard Sharpe seems infallible and invincinble,
Sharpe's Rifles portrays the hero as insecure and... Read more
Published on April 5 2003
5.0 out of 5 stars another great one
Cornwell does what he does best in delivering another suspenseful, action-packed Sharpe book. Like all the others, I had a hard time putting this one down once I had jumped into... Read more
Published on Aug. 8 2002 by Slow Rider
5.0 out of 5 stars great start to an addictive series
This is an excellent action book. Sharpe is a strong character, and the historical context of the story is very interesting. Cornwell's battle scenes are very well done. Read more
Published on April 27 2002 by Kiwibelge
5.0 out of 5 stars sharpe's rifles
Firstly this is an exellent book like all of the others in the sharpe series.It is hard to believe ,at the start ,that the Chosen men will one day respect and like... Read more
Published on April 11 2002 by "adamconlin81"
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