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Showing 1-3 of 3 reviews(3 star). See all 24 reviews
on December 11, 2000
This book completes Cornwell's trilogy of historical novels chronicling Supersoldier Richard Sharpe's military career in India through 1803. The trilogy is a prequel to Sharpe's adventures during the Napoleonic Wars shown in a series on Masterpiece Theatre a few years ago. Sharpe is the eternal outsider: never fitting in; never accepted by his immediate superiors; always battling the incompetence and villainy that pervades the British army; and always winning the devotion and respect of those with "the right stuff". Like the entire series, this book is packed with great battle action and realistic gore. It is, as they say, a good read.
Where would Major General Arthur Wellsley(that shall be Duke of Wellington hereafter) be without Sharpe? Sharpe has already saved his life (in Sharpe's Triumph), earning himself promotion from the ranks. In Sharpe's Fortress he finds the key which allows Wellsley to capture Gawilghur, the impregnable stronghold of the Mahrattas, ending resistance to British rule in western India. In the future Sharpe will help Wellsley/Wellington restore his trooops' morale (Sharpe's Eagle), recover his hijacked payroll (Sharpe's Gold), expel the French from Spain (Sharpe's Honour) and win the battle of Waterloo (Sharpe's Waterloo).
Other reviewers, both amateur and professional, praise the accuracy of Cornwell's historical detail. I concur if that refers to details of life in the British Army of the early 19th century, the minutia of military equipment etc. There are some minor anachronisms in this book. Wellsley is referred to as "Sir Arthur" although he wasn't knighted until his return from India. Sharpe uses the image "quick as a jackrabbit" even though, as a London urchin, he would have had scant chance of knowing about a creature whose territory was just being explored by the first english-speakers like Lewis and Clark. Sharpe's nemesis, Sergeant Hakeswill, yearns "Haven't tasted a 'tater in months. Christian food, that, see?" despite the fact that potatoes did not become popular among English common folk until after the Napoleonic Wars.
My biggest quibble involves Corwell's historical perspective -- not his details. In his "Historical Note", he says that British losses at Gawilghur of 150 was a "small butcher's bill". He doesn't seem to count the thousands of Indians slaughtered there as part of the butcher's bill. He makes us see the inequalities and stupidities of the class-ridden British Army through Sharpe's eyes, but one will have to look elsewhere for a Mahratta's view of the events in the India of 1803.
Cornwell would have us see the British invaders as plucky, clever underdogs -- outnumbered and outgunned by fierce warriors in an impregnable fortress. Only in his afterword does he admit that the quick victory might lead one to "the supposition is that the defenders were thoroughly demoralized." But that won't do because it would turn the epic heroics of Sharpe and his friends into just another massacre! I find Sharpe and Wellsley easier to take when they are fighting Frogs rather than Wogs.
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on September 1, 2001
Of the four prequel pre-Peninsula campaign Sharpe's books this is the second worst. Cornwall seems to have written these more for the money than anything else. Tiger and Trafalgar I'd rate a four, Triumph a two. Hakeswill is in all three land based novels and a female relationship in three out of four. Cornwall seems to be writing by the numbers. Hakeswill escapes all the deaths that Sharpe arranges for him, as we know he will, but nothing is done to him, officially, even though higher up officers learn of Hakesill's nefarious deeds. Sloppy loose ends on Cornwall's part. As always, an interesting way to learn about British military history.
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on January 6, 2004
Not a terrible book, but definitely the weakest of the Sharpe novels set in India (the "Rifles" prequels). The battle scenes are quite good, but the perfunctory romance story feels so tacked-on that that one suspects Cornwell only included the female character because his formula required it. And the handling of Obadiah Hakeswill at the end is just annoying; altogether too much like a James Bond villain's attempt to rid himself of Bond. To reiterate, not an awful novel, but it compares pretty poorly to the preceding "Sharpe's Triumph" or to the subsequent "Sharpe's Trafalgar."
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