2004-07-19 · in Books, Sharpe · 389 words

We're going to fight the Mahrattas, McCandless said. You know who they are?

I hear they're bastards, sir.

McCandless frowned at Sharpe's foul language. They are a confederation of independent states, Sharpe, he said primly, that dominate much of western India. They are also warlike, piratical and untrustworthy, except, of course, for those which are our allies, who are romantic, gallant and heroic.

I haven't been quite as lazy lately as it would appear from reading my reviews; it's just that the last four books I've started reading have been insufficiently gripping to prevent me from starting another one fairly quickly. This means that while I've done my normal amount of reading lately, it's not going to generate many reviews in the near future. Nonetheless, here's something I read a couple of weeks ago: the other Sharpe book that Claire gave me.

This is the first that I've read from the series that occurs early in the chronology: it's set in India in 1803, and records the events leading up to Sharpe's promotion from the ranks. It follows the same formula as the others I've read — the first two thirds of the book cover exposition and character introduction, and the final third describes a famous battle from Sharpe's perspective.

The military bits of the book are handled in much the same way as the books later chronologically in the series, with sensible pacing and enough detail to pull the reader into Sharpe's world. There's perhaps a bit more ambiguity over whether the people Sharpe's fighting are really evil, although the dramatic and barely-fictionalised events at the start of the book make it pretty clear that Dodd is — he's got his reasons — and Hakeswill manages to be as insidiously insane as he will be ten years later. I wasn't terribly impressed with Simone Joubert as a major character; she didn't seem especially interesting — other than as the only woman caught up in the story — and I was expecting her to play a larger part in the ending.

It's not the best instalment in the series that I've read so far, but it's certainly not bad, particularly for Sharpe fans who want to know how he first became an officer. It's certainly better than the other four books I'm still reading...