Review

Sharpe's Fury: Richard Sharpe and the Battle of Barrosa, March 1811

by Bernard Cornwell



Readers of the massive series of books by Bernard Cornwell covering
the career of Richard Sharpe, hero of the Peninsular War and
various other battles of the Napoleonic Era, at first will be
puzzled by the title SHARPE'S FURY. We have been with Sharpe in
hazard after hazard --- a den of tigers, in dangerous battle, on
the parapets and ramparts of every castle in Spain, and even on the
gallows. We have seen him battle all matter of enemies at home and
abroad, from the trenches of Spanish battlefields to the palaces of
Indian rajahs and the back streets of London. And we wonder just
what sort of scenario Bernard Cornwell has come up with this time
to make Sharpe angry --- really, really angry.

Here's the situation. British forces under an incompetent brigadier
have managed to capture a half-deserted French outpost on the
Portuguese frontier. There is another outpost on the other side of
the border, across a wide river spanned by a pontoon bridge.
Sharpe's orders are to destroy the bridge from the opposite side;
that way the British can burn the bridge at their leisure, without
giving the French forces the chance to repair it. The only problem
is that the bridge is the only line of retreat, and the beleaguered
French forces are doing just that --- taking their wounded and
their women with them. (The Sharpe novels are not what you would
call "feminist.")

Rather than blowing up the bridge full of refugees in flight,
Sharpe arranges for a load of gunpowder to be hidden in their
luggage --- there wasn't a Transportation Security Administration
during the Peninsular War, either. However, his scheme to destroy
the bridge is foiled by a suspicious French colonel who captures
Sharpe's best lieutenant in the bargain by dishonoring a truce
agreement. In the chaos, Sharpe, his sidekick and top sergeant
Patrick Harper, and the dumbfounded brigadier end up riding the
remnants of the bridge downstream with the French in pursuit behind
them and end up being swept up in another battle to secure
England's supremacy over Napoleon. Sharpe vows his revenge against
the Frenchman; in Cornwell novels revenge usually ends up served
very cold indeed.

It's the start of a rollicking good adventure story, although one
that takes some odd side trips. Sharpe and Harper end up in Cadiz,
a Spanish coastal fortress that is the only remnant of independent
Spanish rule in the French-controlled country. The big news in
Cadiz is the discovery of a packet of letters written by an English
nobleman to a prominent courtesan. When Sharpe shows up, far from
his regiment, he is tapped to put his skills as a rogue and a thief
into play to rescue the letters, the nobleman and (Sharpe being
Sharpe) the courtesan herself.

Sharpe ends up spending more time skulking along the streets of
Cadiz ---- and less time in the courtesan's bed --- than the
strictest fans of the series would probably like. But the tale is
graced with any number of villains --- the sneering French colonel,
the aristocratic Spanish admiral and his conniving aide, a priest
with a treacherous streak and a deadly knife. It's the villains who
set Richard Sharpe into such a fury, though Cornwell hasn't
forgotten his wit, obstinacy and sheer nerve in dealing with his
foes. SHARPE'S FURY may be driven by anger, but fans will fall on
this latest volume with delight.

Sharpe's Fury: Richard Sharpe and the Battle of Barrosa, March 1811
by Bernard Cornwell

  • Publication Date: September 1, 2007
  • Genres: Fiction, Historical Fiction
  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: HarperCollins
  • ISBN-10: 0060561564
  • ISBN-13: 9780060561567