Most helpful critical review
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
a litte tired
on 8 December 2009
With any Sharpe novel you know you are going to get a fast-paced, well told story and plenty of action. This is no exception. Here our hero must battle the prejudices of his own comrades as he rises to the rank of Ensign as well as the forces of Gawilghur lead by old enemy William Dodd and arch nemesis Obadiah Hakeswill, Sharpe's nemesis from the first two books. The early chapters, describing Sharpe's exposure of his Captain's corruption and subsequent kidnap are lively and interesting. Once again, as punishment for his honesty, Sharpe finds he must fight a couple of enormous local thugs known as Jettis and once again he eventually prevails. It as at this point where the novel begins to struggle a bit. It is difficult to see why Cornwell could not at least invent some other evil for Sharpe to overcome. The Jetti fight is almost identical to that in Sharpe's Tiger. Following the fight Sharpe basically seems to do what he wants, wandering from regiment to regiment at will and pretty much making his own orders. Of course we allow Cornwell a good bit of licence with Sharpe in the name of good story-telling but this really does stretch credulity a little too far. The Siege itself is well told and Sharpe conducts himself with his usual daring aplomb but again there are some things which are difficult to accept. It is never fully explained for example, why after taking the outer Fort, the British cannot simply wait and starve their opponents instead of ploughing recklessly forward on the same afternoon. This is not to say that in reality there was not a very pressing reason, it is just that is not explained here. Instead the capture of the fort feels a little too inevitable. Throughout the early chapters we are endlessly reminded of the impregnability of the `Fortress in the Sky' and yet ultimately it does not seem that tricky to capture it. Maybe these criticisms are a little harsh but Cornwell has set himself high standards and the first two `Indian prequels' were first class. It just feels that Cornwell was a little lazy with this one. Perhaps just a bit too keen to finish Sharpe's Indian adventures and ship him off to Trafalgar.