Saturday, July 2, 2011

Sharpe's Trafalgar

Sharpe's Trafalgar: Spain 1805
© 2001 Bernard Cornwell
301 pages

Richard Sharpe did well for himself in India, rising in the ranks from private to Ensign,  as well as finding love and fortune. But while Sharpe has been helping Britain grow powerful in India, an ambitious man named Napoleon has turned France from a nation divided by civil war into a power which dictates the fortunes of all of Europe. Only Britain's small navy stands between it and invasion by the new French Empire's grand fleet. When Ensign Sharpe sails home to Britain, he's caught between an epic naval confrontation  and thrown into the furore of one of the Napoleonic War's most decisive battles: Trafalgar

Bernard Cornwell notes in the novel's afterword that a soldier such as Sharpe has no business in a naval battle like Trafalgar, but it's not Sharpe's fault that his ship was seized by a French privateer en route to join France's fleet. Aside from a little derring-do on shore, where Sharpe brings a dead man to life and makes a steadfast friend in an English naval captain, Trafalgar takes almost entirely aboard ship -- making Trafalgar a case of "Richard Sharpe meets Horatio Hornblower". Instead of focusing on naval maneuvers, however, Cornwell uses Sharpe   to tell the story of the Marines, who, given Britain's preference for close combat, and Admiral Lord Nelson's desire to capture the enemy fleet -- have an important part to play. The battle itself is the climax of a plot rich in mystery and treason, where Sharpe's fortune and future are placed in jeopardy.

Trafalgar is yet another strong title in Sharpe's Series, one which offers a refreshing change from land battles and gives our hero a new ally, one who I was glad to see return in Sharpe's Prey.



  1. I really enjoyed this. As you say it's a real departure for Sharpe as the vast majority of the book takes place at sea. I thought the end battle was very dramatic. So much so that I'll be reading more sea based historical novels in future - and even have a few non-fiction lined up too.

    I'll be reviewing this book in a few weeks (there's two ahead of it in the review pile ATM). I'd be interested to see your comments when I do.

    Sharpe is certainly one of my favourite characters. I'm looking forward to reading the rest of his books.

  2. I'm almost sad that I've exhausted the prequel novels: back to Spain with me!

    As far historical naval novels, are you referring to the Aubrey-Maturin books by Patrick O'Brien? I've tried to get into those. In fact, last year I'd intended to alternate between O'Brien and Cornwell's novels to cover both land and sea in the Napoleonic era.

  3. sc said: As far historical naval novels, are you referring to the Aubrey-Maturin books by Patrick O'Brien?

    I think I have one or two of his buried deep in the pile. I also have a few others by other authors that need digging out. I also have a few more modern ones to both from the First and Second World Wars.

    On the non-fiction side I just had a history of Napoleonic fighting ships delivered today. Typically I'm itching to read it right away but have a few more to read before I get around to it.


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