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Sharpe as ever!
on 25 April 2003
For long-time fans like me who found "Sharpe's Prey" a bit below par, I'm pleased to say that this one returns to first principles, frog-bashing in the Peninsula; and the author is back on form. If you wondered what happened to Sharpe, Harper & Co. after they joined forces on the retreat to Vigo (Sharpe's Rifles, Jan.1809) and before Talavera (Sharpe's Eagle, July 1809), here's the answer. The Greenjackets are in the wilds of Portugal, where the best Sharpe stories are set, on a mission for Capt. Hogan, the future spy-master. Marshal Soult, 'Duke of Damnation' and aspiring King of Portugal, is closing in. Is all lost? Wait! an obscure sepoy general called Wellesley has landed at Lisbon ...
I'll leave the plot there except to say that it's a ripping yarn (and I've been reading them for twenty years). We meet an upper-class villain fit to take on Sir Henry Simmerson; a beautiful, runaway heiress; and a young Portuguese officer of character and education who has a thing or two to learn from Sharpe. Deja vu? Well, some of the best vus are deja. There have been better ones than this but not many. The atmosphere is as thick as Dan Hagman's tea. There are passages of real sardonic humour, which comes as a relief after the last outing. The action sequences are many and unsurpassed. My only regret is that an old favourite, Sweet William, hasn't shown up yet.
The time slots are filling up but Cornwell makes good use of them. Sharpe and Harper march again. What are you waiting for? And if you didn't understand any of the above, still read the book.