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An Officer's Life Has Its Drawbacks for Richard Sharpe,
This review is from: Sharpe's Fortress: The Siege of Gawilghur, December 1803 (The Sharpe Series, Book 3): Richard Sharpe and the Siege of Gawilghur, December 1803 (Paperback)
Sharpe's Fortress is the third of the stories about Richard Sharpe in India. If you haven't read Sharpe's Tiger and Sharpe's Triumph, I strongly urge you to read those books before this one. You'll like them, and they provide very helpful background for the events in Sharpe's Fortress.
After saving Sir Arthur Wellesley's life at the Battle of Assaye (described in Sharpe's Triumph, book two in chronology in the series), Richard Sharpe was raised out of the ranks into the officer class as an ensign. In Sharpe's Fortress, it becomes obvious that he's arrived in no man's land in a Scottish unit. The Scots don't want any English in the unit; most ensigns are about 12 years old and don't do anything except watch; and men in the ranks are jealous of Sharpe's promotion.
It is kindly suggested that Sharpe either sell his commission or join a new unit, one based in England. Sharpe doesn't want to do either one, and he's even more depressed when he is asked to take a temporary assignment helping get the supplies up to the front lines.
Arriving at his new assignment, it's clear that something is badly wrong. Needed supplies are being stolen left and right. Sharpe quickly gets to the bottom of the thefts and develops new enemies. Meanwhile, his old enemy Sergeant Obadiah Hakeswill has survived Sharpe's last attempt to do away with him in Sharpe's Triumph and has new plans for Sharpe.
The main focus of the story is on the continuing war between the British and their allies and the Mahrattas in India. Turncoat William Dodd has gained every higher rank in the Mahratta forces and is looking forward to a huge victory when the British come to attack the seemingly impregnable fortress of Gawilghur. Much of the story is taken up with various defenders imagining how they will destroy the British in the different traps that await them in the high fortress.
Those extremely detailed descriptions of the fortress become more than a little tiresome. You do have a reward, however, because you'll better understand the story that Cornwell tells about how the battle is won. Actually, the fictional report isn't terribly far off from the actual experience as the historical note indicates. It is only the exaggerated role for Sharpe that misleads . . . while providing a good way to help you understand the battle.
The battle scenes are terrific in this book. It's only the tedium of the redundant musings that keep this book for being a five-star effort.
As usual, Sharpe finds that while he has temporary conquests with the ladies, he isn't going to be the one who takes them home permanently.