Wednesday 26 June 2024

Guest Review: Sharpe’s Command by Bernard Cornwell

If any man can do the impossible it's Richard Sharpe . . .

And the impossible is exactly what the formidable Major Sharpe is asked to do when he's dispatched on an undercover mission behind enemy lines, deep in the Spanish countryside.

For a remote village is about to become the centre of a battle for the future of Europe. Sitting high above the Almaraz bridge, it is the last link between two French armies, one in the north and one in the south; if they meet, the British are doomed.

Only Sharpe's small group of men – with their cunning and courage to rely on – stand in their way. But they're rapidly outnumbered, enemies are hiding in plain sight, and time is running out...

Review: This is the 23rd book in Bernard Cornwell’s Sharpe series, but chronologically it fits in as number 14, taking the reader back to 1812, long before the battle of Waterloo. For anyone new to these books, the series follows the career of Richard Sharpe in the British army, from his time in India to the Napoleonic wars. A heroic deed led to his being promoted from the ranks to an officer, which has placed him in an awkward position, often disliked in equal measure by soldiers above and below him.

In this book, Sharpe and his band of riflemen are in Spain, having been sent to liaise with a group of partisans and establish the state of a bridge over the river Tagus at Almaraz and its defending forts. This bridge has become key to the success of the French war effort, as the crossing will allow two branches of its army to join together, making a formidable force. Sharpe and his men have to contend with more than the French in dealing with the bridge, principally is the leader of the partisans fighting with them or against?

I have seen a few comments from readers complaining about continuity errors in this book due to its having been slotted into the series. However, setting aside such considerations, I enjoyed this story for what it was - Sharpe and his chosen men doing their bit to defeat the French. It did feel slightly strange reading about characters who I know will die subsequent books, but it was good to see Sharpe again in his younger days and be reacquainted with the trusty Harper, the rest of the band and of course Sharpe’s wife Teresa. There is plenty of action as Sharpe and his small force cope with an inexperienced officer accompanying them as well as the French forces and a strangely unhelpful group of partisans. I hope that Bernard Cornwell still has more adventures to come for Richard Sharpe.

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