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on 27 January 2010
Like all good things the `Sharpe' series had to come to an end and what better way with the most famous battle of the Napoleonic Wars - Waterloo. Most Bernard Cornwell fans will be well aware that 1990's `Sharpe's Waterloo' was by no means the character's last book, but the author wrote it like it may have been. The Sharpe series have always had a basic structure; battle at the start, Sharpe falls for a woman, Sharpe meets colourful enemy with nickname such as `The Butcher', battle at the end in which Sharpe beds woman and kills enemy. `Waterloo' throws this out of the window and instead is almost one continuous battle from start to finish.

With this in mind the book will appeal to some fans of the series and not others. As a rule I love the way that Cornwell describes fighting and `Waterloo' is a smorgasbord of detail and horror. For me it is the quintessential novel by the author and highlights how brilliant he is at creating atmosphere and making history evocative. However, other people will decry the lack of character development and the way that some storylines are seemingly left to hang in the air. It is true that there is no real structure to the book apart from the battle itself, but when that battle is written so well this is all you need. I would urge people to read some of the earlier book in the series first so that you get to know and love Sharpe and Harper, but for those who do know them - this is their greatest test ever.
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on 23 October 2007
I've read quite a few books, both fiction and non-fiction, about the Napoleonic wars in general and Waterloo specifically but in the fiction-category this is probably the best. If you've read the 17 preceding Sharpe-novels you'll be glad to learn that many of the familiar characters of those novels are present at Sharpe's finest hour, the plot is as thrilling as ever (as Cornwell himself says in the foreword, he just stuck to the dramatic events as they unfolded themselves in reality, that's as good a plot as any author could invent), and the book is filled cover to cover with action scenes.

I'm not sure if I'll be reading "Sharpe's Devil" soon because this book is so good and so natural an end to the joint adventures of Sharpe and the Duke of Wellington, which have provided me with many happy hours of reading for precious little money, that for the time being I'm content to let it rest at that.

If you read nothing but this single book featuring Sharpe you'll be treated to a rare experience, and if you decide to read the entire series all the more so.
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on 3 February 2001
Sharpe's Waterloo is quite a different book to the other Sharpe's I have read. Sharpe seems to have been written around the events at Quatre Bras and Waterloo, rather than being central to them. If Sharpe was an afterthought, then Harper was lucky to make it into the pages at all. Whilst he is there, he doesn't add anything to the plot, but perhaps Cornwell just didn't want to leave him out. If anything the battles are the central characters.
I still really enjoyed reading this, the writing style still made it hard to put down, the battle descriptions are detailed, gruesome and gripping as any, maybe more so.
Sharpe's feud with Lord John Rossendale and his dispute with the foolish Prince of Orange thread through the story in true Cornwell style.
It's the end of the Napoleonic wars for Sharpe, Harper and a few others, perhaps a fitting one, though I'm not too sure. Still, I am sure that I'll be reading Sharpe's Devil pretty soon, followed by Sharpe's Tiger et al.
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"And he gathered them together into a place called in the Hebrew tongue Armageddon." -- Revelation 16:16

Waterloo was the last battle of the Napoleonic Wars, a last brilliant gamble by the returned-from-exile Emperor Napoleon to surprise his enemies and gloriously split their forces so they could be destroyed. The best part of the book comes in having Richard Sharpe be present for the key action as the British and Prussians are surprised . . . and almost undone before barely prevailing. The battle story telling reminded me of the best parts of Bruce Catton's distinguished history books of the American Civil War. It's gripping and terribly interesting . . . in that strange way that awful events pull us in.

Bernard Cornwell also remained loyal to his favorite pet peeves, working them into central parts of the story:

1. The gaps between the well-born and the up-from-the-ranks officers.
2. The hypocritical attitude toward honor among the well-to-do.
3. The idiocy of letting aristocrats with no experience make battle decisions.
4. The bravery of the despised common soldier who fought better than any other nation's soldiers.

He also picks up on the disloyalty of Sharpe's wife, dangling in our minds many potential ends for the perfidious lovers.

I was sorry to see the last battle.

If you haven't read any other books in the series, do go back and start at the beginning in order of the chronology of the events . . . before reading this satisfying book.

Charge!
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Lieutenant-Colonel Sharpe, sidelined on the Royal staff, magnificently siezes command at the final moment of the great victory. It is 1815. Sharpe is serving on the personal staff of the Prince of Orange, who refuses to listen to Sharpe's reports of an enormous army, led by Napoleon, marching towards them. The Battle of Waterloo commences and it seems as if Sharpe must stand by and watch the grandest scale of military folly. But at the height of battle, as victory seems impossible, Sharpe takes command and the most hard-fought and bloody battle of his career becomes his most magnificent triumph. Soldier, hero, rogue - Sharpe is the man you always want on your side. Born in poverty, he joined the army to escape jail and climbed the ranks by sheer brutal courage. He knows no other family than the regiment of the 95th Rifles whose green jacket he proudly wears.
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on 3 October 2003
I am a big fan of the sharpe books and the TV dramas. When I started reading Sharpes Waterloo the book instantly sprung alive and you could almost smell the musket smoke. Bernard Cornwell is a superb writer who manages to make the story bounce alive out of the book with his fantastic descriptiveness, especially of Sharpe, portraying him as a 'tramp'.
The battles scenes are excellent, whether it be a small skirmish between the Prussians and the French or the main battle of Waterloo, they remain historically accurate. If you are interested in war, history or just good literature I would highly recommend this book.
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on 11 August 2006
When I read my first Sharpe, I wanted to shout 'Heavens, but what about historical facts!'.....and I read on and on and on. If you read a Sharpe, you do NOT look for historical facts, but for swashbuckling, shagging and wonderful adventure and this is it indeed. Relish the book, enjoy the magnificent hero and pray, that perhaps once in a while Bernhard Cornwell decides to give us another piece of the cake of Richard Sharpe's epic lifestory. There is nothing new in Sharpe's, but is exactly the good old style in which Cornwell marches on, that makes Sharpe's multiple adventures such a good entertainment.
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on 19 August 1998
For lovers of the Sharpe series Waterloo will provide you with both a triumphant and riveting ending, and a sad farewell. For lovers of Napoleonic history, Waterloo will take you beyond the tactics and strategy and let you feel the thunder of the cannons, smell the clouds of powder smoke, and hear the cries of the dying and wounded. Cornwell places you on the ridge overlooking the valley and lets you watch the battle unfold. The book is really the next best thing to a time machine.
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on 5 August 2001
I really enjoyed this book, finding the narrative gripping throughout. The battle scenes were very easy to visualise, and the 'fiction' of Richard Sharpe and his life, etc, were as entertaining as ever. Having read Howarth's historical account of Waterloo, I was delighted at the way Sharpe slipped into the monumental events of history - stealing much of the glory! Wonderful!
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on 23 June 1998
I have read all of the Sharpe series but found this one to be the best. Cornwell's attention to detail leaves the reader with a real sense of what the battle was like. For those who enjoy a good story, I would recommend any of the Sharpe series but especially Waterloo!
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