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on 21 April 2016
With a very long road trip to come I needed something as near to guaranteed to be a good listen as I could find. This of course leaves a very short list of authors and characters and George Cornwell’s Sharpe is one of very few that fit the bill. In fact I have quite deliberately taken my time to go back to this series because it is simply that good and I want to savour it.

This one is a bit different from the previous three of course as Sharpe leaves India to begin his journey home and start his new career with the Rifles. It does take a little time to get to the real action but the story is entertaining and throughout Cornwell demonstrates that he is just as capable at naval fiction as he is at everything else!

The triumph of this book though is that when the action starts it is heart stopping stuff. Trafalgar will always be one of the most iconic of naval battles and Nelson one of this Island’s most feted heroes. These are not subjects to be trifled with but with Cornwell in charge you can feel the spray on your face, taste the blood in your mouth and smell the powder smoke in the air. The tactics deployed in the battle required every man to do more than his duty, it was a terrifyingly novel approach to fleet warfare and all of it gets its full due. This has to be one of the finest battles in modern literature and Sharpe is inserted into the overall picture deftly.

Of course this is Sharpe so he’s never content with having just say the French and Spanish to fight, he makes other enemies closer to home and yes of course there is a lady for him to pursue.

Rupert Farley brings it all to life for us with his usual excellence and by the end of the book I was happy to have experienced another masterpiece from George Cornwell. My biggest issue with this series is to resist buying all of it and running away to a dark room somewhere until it is finished!
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In chronological order, Sharpe's Trafalgar is the fourth book in the series. You could also think of it as an out-of-sequence book because it has little to do with the stories about Richard Sharpe as a soldier. In fact, unless you want to read a little about what it was like to be at the Battle of Trafalgar, you could skip this book and not miss anything important in the way of character development. Unlike the India books where Sharpe was continually fighting off deadly threats to his life, Sharpe is more concerned here with sneaking around with a married woman, a remote cousin of Sir Arthur Wellesley, Lady Grace Hale.

The Napoleonic Wars were fought in Europe. Naturally, Sharpe has to leave India if he is to appear to save the day in all of those amazing battles on the continent. Naturally, he's going to pass by Trafalgar. Why not write a book about the battle and have Sharpe stumble into it? That's clear the thought process behind this book.

As a result, you end up with a lot of plot "development" that is sort of filler before the main battle. Having never studied the sea battle, I found that the explanations were interesting and the story helped make the technology and strategy easier to understand. Had this been a novella that focused on the last third of this book, I probably would have graded the book as a five-star effort.

The ins and outs of avoiding being swindled by ship chandlers, East India ship captains, and common seamen didn't seem all that interesting to me. The romantic side of the book wasn't too credible to me and didn't add much to my enjoyment of the story. If you think Bernard Cornwell's novels about Sharpe lack enough of a love interest, then you'll probably like this book a lot better than I did.

The writing is quite good in comparing naval battles with the kind of fortress breaching that Sharpe engaged in during the three books in India. I don't recall reading another novel from this era that made those comparisons quite so explicit and interesting.

By contrast, some of the dialogue is particularly bad. In fact, Cornwell makes fun of his own dialogue by putting words into the mouths of characters who don't agree that every ship's captain is a "fine fellow."

The unforgettable part of the book is the characterization of Lord Nelson who led his sailors to such a remarkable victory that day.

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on 29 April 2000
Bernard Cornwell's latest addition to the Sharpe saga fits between Sharpe's Fortress and Sharpe's Rifles. He is an Ensign and needs to get back to England to join the newly formed rifles. He joins a ship of the East India company convoy and is forced to travel in the worst accomodation. Also on board he meets Pohlmann, whom enthusiasts will remember from a previous book. Lord William, Sharpe's obligatory upper class rival, and his beautiful wife Lady Grace, and yes, he does. The ship is betrayed by the Captain and captured by the French ship "Revenant". The ship is en route to be sold when it is recaptured by "Pucelle" Captained by Sharpe's friend Captain Chase. The next part of the book consists of a fascinating chase by "Pucelle" after "Revenant" and the even more fascinating indiscretions of Sharpe and Lady Grace. Finally "Revenant" joins the Franco Spanish fleet and "Pucelle" Nelson's fleet and they head off to battle off the point of Trafalgar and you know the result of that. Suffice to say Dick does us proud. The book, as you'd expect, from Cornwell is researched beyond belief and Bernards startlingly descriptive writing of battles on land has been effectively transferred to sea. The smell burns your sinuses and the cloying smoke and heat as you stand amidst the caldron of the lower gun decks and atop the rigging leave you wide eyed. Stood alone, a fascinating account of the battle and, as expected, a damn good read but, for me, Sharpe's presence spoilt it! Having read all the novels in the series it struck me that Bernard had put him there to satisfy some pressure to perpetuate the saga. I don't think he should have. Sharpe should be left on his Normandy farm in 1819. But read this book as a "stand alone" and you will be struck by the pictures Cornwell can write. In short Bernard more battles please but Sharpe has had his day.
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on 25 April 2000
With a final parting shot to India, Ensign Sharpe finds passage home to England aboard the Calliope. But the journey is to be an eventful one, fraught with danger and conspiracies aplenty! The estranged Peculiar Cromwell, adventuring Royal Navy Captain Chase, the beautiful Lady Grace, and the cold and calculating Sir William Hale - all conspire to liven the voyage westwards. Richard Sharpe is a fish out of water, getting used to life on the ocean wave. He soon proves his mettle at Trafalgar, however, and helps turn the tide against a determined foe. Revenge is at hand. Sharpe is out for blood in a nautical world of cannon and cutlass. There is a brief meeting with Lord Horatio Nelson, before the hounds of war are released. Good adventure, good reading. Perhaps not the best Sharpe novel, but certainly added a different perspective to Sharpe's campaigns. Lovely climatic ending. As ever, Bernard Cornwell's attention to detail proves his research into historical fact is faultless. One almost imagined being there: the crashing waves, the snapping canvas, the creak of timber, admist the smoke, blood, and roar of guns. Richard Sharpe is one of England's unsong heroes.
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on 9 June 2000
Most of us reading this page have a lot of time and enthusiam invested in Richard Sharpe's brilliant career. On finishing the Sharpe series, I reluctantly launched off into O'Brian's Aubrey/Maturin saga - very sorry to leave the dashing Sharpe behind. Now, with the 20 volumes of O'Brian's wonderful work just behind, I looked forward to Cornwell's "Trafalgar" as a way to keep the magic of the Royal Navy with me. O'Brian is probably an impossibly high standard by which to measure this book, but what has struck me painfully on reading "Trafalgar", was how cartoonish Richard Sharpe has become. Sharpe was always "pulled up from the gutter" not only by his own bootstraps, but also from the strength of his character. His always seeminly sullied integrity that would come shining through, alongside his almost always James Bondian heroics, was the essence of the Sharpe books. Here, he's not even at war and he commits a murder. Why? We're told it's because the victim had "made an enemy" of Richard Sharpe. In sum, this is not the Richard Sharpe of the other 16 books. The characters here, including Richard, are all thin - to the point of being two dimensional. "Trafalgar" unfortuately is not an integral part of the Sharpe sequence and could just as well be left off the list. If the Royal Navy of the Peninsular War sparks your interest, read O'Brian.
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TOP 100 REVIEWERon 21 July 2013
This book covers Sharpe's voyage home to England from India, as the title implies via the Battle of Trafalgar. The book has real pace from start to finish with an interesting sub plot in the form of Sharpe's romantic involvement. The historical backdrop is interesting and full of detail. Overall an excellent read.
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on 9 January 2013
Set in 1805 this book finds Sharpe in India preparing to return to England.
On the way back Sharpe lends a helping hand at the battle of Trafalgar.

I wondered how Mr Cornwell was going to get the landlubber Sharpe his sea-legs, and he does this in a very slick, well thought out plot.
The story unfolds at a fair old pace and appears plausible.

I enjoyed this book but feel that this is a different Sharpe to the ones I read & loved all those years ago.
I have read most, if not all, of the earlier Sharpe series and was surprised to find this one. Then i realised it was written
later than the others I had previously read but covered an earlier part of Shape's career.
So, it is the TV "Sean Bean" Sharpe not the print version of Sharpe.

Never mind, a good read none-the-less.

If this review has been helpful please click the "Yes" button. Thanks for reading this.
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on 20 September 2007
Sharpe doesn't get up to much in this book he is more of a spectator than a lead character, but the the book is still worth reading if you want to find out about Trafalgar in a fun, fictionalised way.

The story is a bit slow in places such as the beginning of the sea battle as the ships line up to fight, but eventually some good action does take place. The book was written after Sharpe's Prey and is a self contained story that does seem like an add-in.

Nothing is said in the book about the side plots in the Sharpe series such as Hakeswill or Sharpes rise through the ranks. Although Sharpes jewels make an appearance and Sharpe also does something very immoral which you wouldn't expect from him.

Overall a good book about Trafalgar, but not really about Sharpe. Could be missed out if your reading through the series in chronological order without losing any of the story.
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on 24 July 2012
Sharpes creator does another excellent job of dropping him right in the doo-doo yet again.
I really appreciate the afterwords where Mr Cornwell explains where, when, and who inspired the acts credited to Sharpe. I think that the memories of those who were really there are well served.
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For that phrase alone I decided I had to review this book, and give it 5 stars. Normally I'd steer away from adding yet another review to a book this well-known and well reviewed, but this time I cant help myself.

Cornwell is a master storyteller, and here we have Sharpe at sea, with the section being reminiscent of Aubrey-Maturin in places (even if the action is more Hornblowery than O'Brianesque). Really, it does not get much better: Sharpe at Trafalgar, meeting Nelson and finding love. Not with Nelson. Somebody else. A woman.

Its pure whimsy, in a way, to put Sharpe here on his way back from India, but one's disbelief can be more than adequately suspended while you read. In the end, you have a gripping Sharpe story, with naval action, boarding parties, treachery and true love. What more can you ask for?
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