Saturday, May 21, 2011

Sharpe's Tiger

Sharpe's Tiger
© 1997 Bernard Cornwell
385 pages


Until the birth of modern India in 1947, there existed  for many centuries upon the southern tip of the Indian peninsula a kingdom known as Mysore. In the year 1799, the British Empire -- whose commercial interests made it increasingly interested in the affairs of the peninsula -- opted to remove Mysore's king, the Tippo (or Tipu) Sultan, from the throne, for he was far too fond of the French, and the French far too interested in India, for the situation to be tolerated. And so Private Richard Sharpe,  redcoat soldier in the 33rd Foot under the command of Sir Arthur Wellesley, advanced upon the Sultan's capital.

Sharpe's general attitude being what it is, in no time at all he's broken the nose of a sergeant who is out to kill him, and is rescued from death-by-flogging only when a lieutenant given an important mission requests Sharpe's assistance. The two men are to infiltrate the Sultan's army, then find and rescue a captured British colonel who has information vital to the campaign. Time is of the essence, for the clever sultan has arranged a bloody trap for the army advancing upon his city.

Sharpe's Tiger must be one of this series' more significant books, for Sharpe -- most famous for his skills as a riflemen -- picks up a rifle for the first time here, and begins a career as an 19th century action hero. It establishes his early history and reason for joining the army,  and as the tension builds Sharpe grows from a rogue on the point of deserting into a genuine soldier. The future Duke of Wellington is also here -- young, and with a legacy to begin building.  The Tippoo sultan ranks among Sharpe's more memorable enemies: he is a man obsessed by tigers, to the point of having his soldiers wear tiger-striped uniforms, employ tiger-shaped cannons, and fire muskets decorated by tigers.  Though a enemy of England and in Sharpe's eyes a 'bastard', the man's bravery, wiliness, and leadership skills earn him the grudging praise of the book's various British officers, including Sharpe.  I especially appreciated Cornwell's pacing here: the whole of the book ramps the tension as the British move toward attack. There are also some unique characters who I hope to see again, like Lieutenant Lawford.

Excellent as always.

Related:

  • Sharpe's Challenge appears to have been baldly borrowed from Sharpe's Tiger

9 comments:

  1. It was nice to see the young Sharpe in action and to understand what shaped him.

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  2. By the strangest of luck, yesterday I also watched "Sharpe's Challenge"...though it is set 14 years after his redcoat days, the plot of it was identical to Tiger's in many ways...even using the same dialogue. Some parts worked better with the Tippoo as Sharpe's nemesis, though. Have you seen many of the movies? That was my...fourth, I think. (Sharpe's Eagle, Sharpe's Rifles, Sharpe's Sword, Sharpe's Challenge).

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  3. I've seen most of the TV movies I think. They're pretty good despite being rather low budget....

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  4. Oddly I was in my local supermarket yesterday & picked up the complete box-set of all 14 Sharpe TV movies for £10 ($16).

    Not bad value I thought... [grin]

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  5. Not bad at all! I think the Horatio Hornblower movies cost me $30ish. Perhaps I can find a better deal on Sharpe.

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  6. Not bad at all! I think the Horatio Hornblower movies cost me $30ish. Perhaps I can find a better deal on Sharpe.

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  7. I haven't seen any of the Hornblower series. Are they worth the investment?

    BTW - I'm watching Star Trek:OS ATM. In an interview Gene Roddenberry said that he based Jim Kirk on Hornblower. Did you mention that at some point or am I imagining things?

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  8. *I* think they are: I watched the entire series twice when I discovered them, again with my father, again alone when I was sick. That's..four times in one year. Obviously I'm getting something out of them!


    I think I found Hornblower via TvTropes, where they mentioned that Star Trek was Hornblower "IN SPACE", and in an interview with Patrick Stewart told him he intended the captain be like Hornblower. Stewart was fine with this.

    By the way, how many movies were in your Sharpe set? I saw a collection of 14, but it was well over $200!

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  9. My box-set on Amazon.Com is priced @ $38.99 which isn't quite $16 but is far better than over $200... [grin]

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