Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Sharpe's Sword

Sharpe's Sword
© 1983 Bernard Cornwell
319 pages

The year is 1812, and the Napoleonic wars are broadening. After retreating to Portugal, the British army is once again on the move, now pushing into Spain to confront Napoleon's armies in Salamanca. As much as Wellington desires to draw the French army into an engagement, his opposing counterpart is content to block the English army's advance into Spain and threaten their supply lines,  always obstructing the English but never giving Wellington the chance to use his wiles against them. For the moment, Sharpe and his men are without battle to engage them -- but not without a mission, because someone is killing England's spies and threatening a continent-wide intelligence network. Sharpe and his comrades know who the man is, but first they must find him hiding in the city -- and do so quickly, before he strikes at Wellington's master spy.

Sharpe's Sword is a rich, full Sharpe novel containing several military engagements -- including the big battle Wellington wanted, a superior tale of the event -- in addition to a plot of espionage. Cornwell thoughtfully threw in a few twists and turns, and while Sharpe's foe is largely absent in hiding, he proves to be one of most difficult for Sharpe to defeat, nearly killing our hero -- but he recovers, his faithful friend Patrick at his side, and the attention paid to their friendship is one of the book's better moments. When reading Sharpe, I prefer his solitary adventures to the tales of battle, but Wellington's daring attack enthralled me here. Sharpe's Sword delivers fully.

Next up: Sharpe's Skirmish.

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