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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 28 February 2005
Six years after the end of the Napoleonic wars, ex-Rifleman Richard Sharpe toils on his French wife's farm in Normandy. Times are a little tough, so when the fabulously wealthy wife of a former Spanish comrade asks him to travel to Chile to find her missing husband, he can't refuse the gold that comes with the request. Naturally, Sharpe rounds up the now-rotund and prosperous tavern-keeper Patrick Harper before setting sail for South America. Their vessel is a Spanish one, ferrying a number of patronizing and foppish Spanish officers who are off to fight the Chilean rebels (who are led by the intriguing half-Spanish, half-Irish gentleman Bernardo O'Higgins). These Spaniards decide to take a minor detour to St. Helena to gawk at the imprisoned Napoleon, and of course Sharpe and Harper can't resist the chance to pay their own respects. The ex-emperor is by now rotting away in his dank mansion, with peeling wallpaper, a poor wine-cellar, and a large British garrison to keep him company. Treated like a curiosity in a zoo, he is disdainful of the Spaniards, but is intrigued by Sharpe and Harper, who are clearly fellow warriors. Cornwell has a lot of fun with this section, as the two old soldiers talk shop, honor each other, and Sharpe, with his customary naivite is unwittingly drawn into intrigue.
Eventually, the ship arrives in Chile, where Sharpe is told the man he is seeking, Captain-General Vivar, is actually dead. Of course, Sharpe is suspicious when a body can't be produced, and soon he and Harper have run afoul of the thoroughly evil Spanish Governor-General Bautista. Events entertainingly run their course, and soon the dynamic duo find themselves on the side of the rebels seeking to eject the Spaniards from Chile. They come under the wings of Admiral Cochrane, a Scottish Lord turned rebel seaman, and all around adventurer. Cochrane is a wildly daring and bold leader, a real life figure of such improbability that many readers will want to rush out and read one of the biographies about his exploits (The Audacious Admiral Cochrane by and The Sea Wolf by being two). Once in Cochrane's company, the action ratchets up until the climactic battle at Valdivia, where the ragtag rebel navy crushed the entrenched and more numerous Spanish defenders in an audacious action, heralding an end to Spanish rule. The rout also allows Sharpe to unravel the mystery of what befell Captain-General Vivar, and of course, exact retribution on the nasty Bautista.
This is indubitably a change of pace and setting from the regular Sharpe books, but a welcome one. As always, the military action is well described, there are evil villains, interesting supporting characters, and a heavy dose of vivid personages from history on hand. It's hard to imagine anyone making the nominally drab topic of Chilean independence come alive more vividly than Cornwell does here. There's a lot packed into this one, and Cornwell even manages to raise the specter of one of history's more interesting "what ifs" via an audacious plot. All in all, great fun.
PS. Anyone interested in St. Helena is advised to read Harry Ritchie's excellent travel book, The Last Pink Bits, which has a good section on how the island fares in modern times.
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on 21 May 2000
Interesting solution to keeping Sharpe alive after most of his protagonists have been killed and/or defeated by the time of Waterloo. Even though the Napoleonic wars are over, Cornwell finds a way for Napoleon to influence Sharpe's life, to detach Patrick from his idyllic life and to set the two on another quest. Although this book may not have quite the same capacity to involve the reader in the art of warfare as it happened so long ago, Cornwell produces a credible adventure that keeps the reader's attention throughout... but where can he go now?
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Richard Sharpe, asked to help an old friend, meets, at last, the greatest enemy. Five years after the Battle of Waterloo, Sharpe's peaceful retirement in Normandy is shattered. An old friend, Don Blas Vivar, is missing in Chile, reported dead at rebel hands - a report his wife refuses to believe. She appeals to Sharpe to find out the truth. Sharpe, along with Patrick Harper, find themselves bound for Chile via St. Helena, where they have a fateful meeting with the fallen Emperor Napoleon. Convinced that they are on their way to collect a corpse, neither man can imagine that dangers that await them in Chile...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 15 August 2013
Having read all of BC's books this was the last one I had to read and also the last in the Sharpe series. It was ok, but easily the weakest in the whole Sharpe series and also all of BC's books, not quite the struggle that Stonehenge was though. Sharpe and Harper should have just marched off at the end of Waterloo and be done; a book too far!
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on 6 February 2001
Sharpe's Devil is a cracking good read. After the relatively (and only relatively) disappointing Waterloo this is a back to basics Sharpe, a real boys-own, gung-ho adventure. It's different from the Napoleonic novels, not quite as gritty, but it has a fast paced story line and a good plot.
There are some strong characters in this too. Sharpe is pretty much the same, as is Harper, apart from now being enormously fat. Napoleon seems to hang over the book like a shadow and I couldn't believe that Admiral Cochrane existed, but according to the historical note he did, and in reality his larger than life persona was even more so.
Cornwell has got it right yet again, a blend of action and adventure in a highly credible historical setting.
Since he did not write all the novels in chronological order I have often wondered how he avoided anachronisms and in this I think I have found one. Sharpe is engaged in what is described as his first sea battle off the Chilean coast. However, as Cornwell has since penned Trafalgar which is set some fifteen years before - I suspect (though I haven't read it yet) Sharpe had some hand in this most famous battle at sea - an error possibly. Similarly Sharpe is amazed that Cochrane met Nelson, I just bet Sharpe has met him too!
Minor criticisms of an excellent book.
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VINE VOICEon 22 October 2008
To be honest, although I was interested in what Sharpe would get up to after Waterloo, you think to yourself, dont bother, it ended at his greatest battle so let the man retire in peace. Somehow, Cornwell manages to get Sharpe and (fat-boy) Harper out of retirement for one last heroic effort. With Cochrane, a lovable scoundrel, the return of Blas Vivar, a nasty new bad-guy and the usual action Cornwell manages to get one more adventure out of the old soldiers. Turns out I was wrong to be sceptical about another book, and to be honest I am very happy he wrote this. Sad thing is, this is the last in the truely excellent series.....
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As a hugh Sharpe fan (both TV and Book) I thought no more Sharpe after Waterloo - wrong. This book is great. Sharpe on both land and sea. Sharpe is for the reader who likes heroes getting in the thick of the action. Has some reference back to previous books but still great for a first time Sharpe reader. I would recommend this book to anyone interested in a good, fast and enjoying read.
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on 9 March 2012
Over the last few weeks I have bought and read the complete series of "Sharpe" and most of them are terrific,with only one or two not quite meeting the mark. Regretfully, in my opinion, this falls very much short. It may be that it is removed from the original concept of The Peninsula Wars which I think were historically stronger.
I was also going to point out the anomaly of " Sharpe's first sea battle " but someone has beaten me to it.
One problem I have had with the series is that having seen many episodes of the TV production I have realised that the adaptees have mixed up a lot of the details and action of different books which somehow seems to have spoiled it for me.
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on 7 March 1999
It wasn't until I happened across the the Sharpe series on TV that I realised these books even existed, I collected the video's and am in the process of reading the books, which I can now say are well recommended. Although for me, Sean Bean will always be Major Sharpe in my imagination as I read the books (even such as this one, which hasn't yet been made into a TV drama) - I only think this enhances the experience of reading the books, for they are extremely well written, and on TV, the characters are extremely well portrayed.
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on 12 August 2014
Bernard Cornwell is, in my opinion [for whatever that is worth] the best historical author currently working in the world of narrative fiction; based upon real-life historical events. He pulls no punches in respect to the often extremely violent reality of life during the wide ranging periods of human history he has covered. The net result is an authentic and often contemporary feel, featuring a cast of flawed characters that the modern day reader can identify with [in some cases], and entertained by until it becomes quite addictive.
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