2004-06-18 · in Books, Sharpe · 280 words

Then why go to an enemy harbour? Sharpe asked.

To capture it, of course, why else? Cochrane looked at Sharpe as though the Rifleman was mad. We've got a ship, we've got men, we've got weapons, so what the hell else should we be doing?

But the ship's sinking!

Then the bloody ship might as well do something useful before it vanishes.

The year is 1820, five years after Waterloo; Sharpe and Harper leave their retirement to travel to Chile in search of a missing friend, paying a visit to Napoleon in exile on the way, and end up rather more involved in the civil war than they were expecting.

This is the first book after the stories that were adapted for TV, so it was interesting to read a Sharpe story where I didn't already know the basic plot. Stylistically it's much the same as the last one I read; the only difference here is that the interesting parts of the plot are set at sea rather than on land, following Lord Cochrane, the charismatic (and more than a little insane) Admiral of the Chilean rebel navy, as he successfully captures the forts at Valdivia. I couldn't help but feel that Cornwell really wanted to write a Hornblower novel rather than a Sharpe one; Cochrane and Sharpe get about equal time in the latter part of the book, but Cochrane's a sufficiently interesting character that this works well.

While Sharpe-fan friends of mine thought this wasn't a particularly good book, I didn't find much wrong with it; it's different from the earlier stories, but I still enjoyed it. Recommended.