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17 of 19 people found the following review helpful
on 21 January 2006
Sharpe's Rifles is the story of Richard Sharpe and the French invasion of Galicia. From the outset this is a fast-paced story of faith and determination that is hard to put down.
Bernard Cornwell's Sharpe series is a fantastic example of engaging historical fiction. I especially like the historical note at the end of each book explaining which parts of the story were fiction and which were genuine events. These books bring the Peninsular War (and the Indian campaign) to life.
I recommend reading the books in chronological order - not always easy as there are new ones written quite often. Enjoy!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 17 July 2015
The perfect companion for all historical fiction enthusiasts is THE ROMA VICTRIX WINE BEAKERCalix Imperium, Roma Victrix Pewter wine beaker

This is the sixth episode, chronologically, in the adventures of Richard Sharpe, British infantryman during the Napoleonic Wars.

Up front, let me say that this book is still a lot of fun. It's only in comparison to the first five that I downgrade it a bit.

This book was written ninth, which might seem fairly far along in the 24 book series, but it was still before the first five books that preceded it chronologically. I think that this shows in a couple of ways.

You get some hints of this in the facts of the story. In one scene, Sharpe is recounting the battles he has fought in and needs to make a fairly complete accounting. Though he mentions Seringapatam, Assaye and Gawilghur, he omits mention of Trafalgar and Copenhagen...presumably Cornwell hadn't thought of those adventures, yet. There is also a bit of an inconsistency in his reaction to the weight of Murray's cavalry saber, though he used--and liked--a much heavier sword in India during the first three books. However, those types of things are really very minor and don't detract from the book.

What did detract, for me, from the last sixth of the book was Sharpe's character. It seemed less formed that it had in the first five books. Without giving specific spoilers, I thought this was most notable in his reactions to Louisa Parker toward the end: his initial response felt right but, within a day, this brooding, sensitive, sometimes bitter fellow was somehow happy-go-lucky and accepting of rather unfair and certainly unexpected behavior toward him by a couple of individuals. It didn't fit the Sharpe we've come to know and didn't ring true.

On the positive side, we get an exciting opening and, once we get past a bit of mysticism in the middle, a quite exciting ending. We get introduced to Patrick Harper who is almost as an enjoyable character as Sharpe, and who I understand plays a major role in succeeding volumes.

The series is very good; this particular episode is good. I continue to recommend them.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on 16 April 2013
I'm reading Sharpe for the first time, chronologically. This is the sixth in the series and covers Sharpe's adventures during the retreat to Corunna, when he finally comes to terms with the Rifles, gets involved with Spanish resistance to the French, and learns a lot about how to be an officer. This is easily the best-written of the 'retrospectives', not surprising since it was written long before the others, being 9th in order of writing. Cornwell is not the only prolific author whose quality suffered a little in his later career. There are several things that make this stand out in comparison to its chronological predecessors. The technical quality of the writing is better - with less use of stock phrases, a more consistent and believable plot, and a better balance between descriptive prose and dialogue. The attention to detail is superb, and the sympathetic treatment of Sharpe's problems with being being an officer makes him a much more rounded character than the cardboard super-hero of the India series, for example. Also, whereas in the previous books Sharpe simply has to look at a woman and she is his, here he has to cope with rejection - which he does like a gentleman. The scene-setting is second to none, Cornwell's painting of Galicia during a particularly savage winter is almost painful to read, and the fight scenes are drawn with more patience and faultless pacing - utterly unlike the frenetic whizz-bang (almost Tom and Jerry) efforts of novels written a decade later.

A very good read, probably worth 5 stars, but I had to leave a bit of leeway for those stories written before this one which are probably even better. I must say I admire the skill with which the author writes these novels to fill gaps in the chronology. It must be a nightmare to do, being consistent with books written several years earlier.
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on 24 January 2014
I enjoyed this book more than Sharpe's Fortress as it was almost continual action.
Following a small battle, Sharpe is left as the senior officer of the 95th Rifles. The men resent him as they don't
know his former fighting skills. There is almost a mutiny and he has to resort to a fist fight with their spokesman,
the Irish Harper, to try and gain control of the men.

They meet up with a group of Spanish led by Major Vivar - a nobleman - and Sharpe realizes he still has much to
learn about being an officer. Later his fighting skills earn the grudging and then genuine respect of the men, and
he and Harper agree a truce, which becomes a liking for each other. I really like the character of Sgt. Harper (as he
becomes).

Sharpe's Rifles and the Spanish face several attacks from the murderous French and there is a love interest in
Louisa, a Methodist English girl with a horror of an aunt - who is firmly put in her place by a "foul mouthed" Sharpe!

There were a couple of twists in the story and the battles were different and not boring as I found in the siege
scenes in "Fortress".
I would recommend this book, especially if you are interested in the historical events surrounding the fighting in 1809
between France and Spain, Portugal and England. Even if you haven't read another Sharpe novel, this book can "stand alone".
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on 7 February 2012
I must admit I came quite late to the Sharpe party, but having read the Arthur trilogy and the ongoing Uhtred series (and being mightily impressed with Cornwell's writing), I took the plunge and bought all 21 Sharpe books. I've dipped in and out of them over the last couple of years, and am reading them in chronological order. Which brings me to Sharpe's Rifles.

It's clear that Cornwell wrote the series out of chronological order, and this shows slightly as Rifles is one of the older ones, and was the first written with the TV series in mind. Overall it's a cracking read, and Sharpe's vulnerability, lack of confidence and conflict with Harper shines through, giving the book alot more depth than it would otherwise have had.

Typically of Cornwell, the action is well described and the battles rivetting, but the only problem here was that I didn't quite believe that Sharpe would join the hare-brained scheme which forms the final set-piece of the book. The love interest bit didn't really feel believable either (I think, partly due to the written-for-TV origins), and felt a bit contrived. That said, although it was erring towards three stars for me, when I finished the final page I realised how much I'd enjoyed it, and I've already ear-marked Sharpe's Havoc as the next Cornwell outing for me :-)

Good stuff, but if you've read Cornwell before you already know that...
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 12 December 2014
I've read all of the Sharpe series in paperback and watched the TV series several times. When the chance came to read this novel again on my Kindle, I couldn't resist having just watched the TV episode a week earlier. The book goes into far more detail and the inter-play between the 'from the ranks' Lieutenant Richard Sharpe, Harper (the Sergeant) and the Green Jacketed Riflemen made for really enthralling reading. Highly recommended.
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
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. What's in the chest? It must be valuable because the French have dispatched a lot of troops to get it.

Trekking in miserable weather over the mountains in winter, Sharpe comes to respect Vivar who helps Sharpe learn how to command. Their alliance is sundered when Sharpe learns that Vivar hasn't been telling the truth about certain things. It doesn't seem to matter when Sharpe learns that the French have taken Santiago de Compostela. There's no point in going there!

Sharpe's life is further upset by running into a family of English Methodists who are trying to convert the "heathen" Catholics to their Protestant faith without much success and demand Sharpe protect them from the French. Sharpe isn't excited about acceding to this demand, but he can't help but be drawn to their young niece who is flirtatious.

Before long, Sharpe is involved in matters that seem more relevant for Don Quixote than for the 95th Rifles as he joins an idealistic crusade to strike a symbolic blow for Spain. From there, it's great fun . . . among the best of the Sharpe novels. Bernard Cornwall has taken a lot of license with history here, and it makes for good story telling.

Fans of Sergeant Harper in the later novels will be thrilled to find out how he became a sergeant in this book.

I suspect this book will be one of your favorites in the series.
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on 13 May 2015
The Sharpe books are turning out to be informative and entertaining reads that do for the Napoleonic Wars what the Flashman series did for the Victorian era. Our hero finds himself in northern Spain on the retreat to Corunna when, due to an unfortunate turn of events his unit is cut off from the main force and he is left in charge after the deaths of its leading officers. From that moment on Sharpe has to learn the skills of leadership, especially after a disastrous start, and is fortunate enough to be assisted by the very able Spaniard, Blas Vivar. Vivar has his own agenda, that of inspiring resistance to the invading French by unfurling the banner of St James in the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostella.
The whole is an adventurous, action-packed and well-written read in which our hero is not always in the right and things don't always turn out the way he expects but, as one would expect, much is learnt and the stage is set for greater things.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 30 July 2007
Sharpe (by now a Lieutenant) is covering the retreat of the British army towards Corunna in the bitter winter of 1809. The French army is in relentless pursuit when Sharpe and his men become isolated and have to face an enemy of their own...

As with any Sharpe-novel, do not expect lots of philosophical ponderings or in-depth exploration of characters and emotions, but rather: a good plot, plenty of action, and Cornwell's easy story-telling talent that will keep you up at night, desperate to find out what happens on the next page!
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on 22 August 2014
This was written before Waterloo's release and as a back story to Harper and Sharpes meeting on the retreat to Corunna.

Its a superb book - for me the French enemy, the Spaniards, the harrowing descriptions and the Riflemen are vividly brought to life. I've read this novel countless times and I never get bored.

As a writer myself, I only wish I had 1% of Bernard's talent.

David Cook, author of Liberty or Death (The Soldier Chronicles Book 1) and Heart of Oak (The Soldier Chronicles Book 2)
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