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Bernard Cornwell must dread the day when his editors ask him for the name of his next book. We all know for a fact that the first word will likely be Sharpe, but Sharpes what? Sharpes been successful, hes won accolades; in fact he has lived the whole spectrum of human emotions. So what has Cornwell got left Sharpes Denial? Sharpes Lust? Sharpes Sharpener? Well after much deliberation Cornwell has settled on Sharpes Fury even though he is not particularly angry in this book - I was hoping for Sharpes Slightly Miffed!
After an exciting battle on a makeshift bridge Sharpe finds himself stranded in Cadiz with a few of his rifles, including the ever dependable Harper. Before he can return to the army he is asked by an ambassador to recover some letters that are being used for blackmail. Sharpe must go up against another deadly foe this time a priest with ambitions to see a Spanish king rule under a French regime. If Sharpe can uncover the letters he must then work his way back to his own regiment and with the town being surrounded by the French will he get his fury out on the man that trapped him here?
Sharpes career was already an impressive and full one by the time that Cornwell wrote Sharpes Waterloo. However, I can only assume that without the golden goose the author found that he was not making as much money as before. Therefore, Cornwell created a series of sequels and prequels to Sharpes adventures. However, these too ran out so more recent books have slotted in stories in between the previous books giving Sharpe an even more frantic time as he is moved across Europe looking for a scrap. The majority of these books have actually been good and have not suffered from feeling repetitive or forced. However, with Shapes Fury this run comes to an end.
Most readers of this novel will be fans who have probably read many of the other books in the series. For them the book will still be good as Cornwell creates a plot that is still enjoyable. Sharpe and Harper are as good to read about as ever and the description of life during the time still brings forth the era in full gory glory. However, this book feels far more forced than any other Sharpe book yet. The disjointed nature of the book is caused by trying to get Sharpe and his men to appear in a battle and situation that they would have no reason to be near.
Throughout the book Harper and Sharpe keep mentioning that this is not their battle and that they should not be there and you get the feeling as a reader that they are right. Even Cornwell writes like he knows that he is stretching the boundaries of possibilities a bit too far. The book is not helped either by the disjointed and lopsided feel that the story takes. It feels like Cornwell has a bag full of story ideas for Sharpe and unfortunately by this book he only has a couple of shorter stories left. Rather than create a couple of novellas he instead sticks two distinct and separate tales together in a way that feels forced. The first part of the book has little, to no, bearing on the second and for this the book feels distinctly average.
When the battle does commence Sharpe and co feel crow barred into the events. Around about 50 pages go by where we follow a completely different group of characters with no sign of our duo of heroes. The battle at Cadiz was the first time an Eagle had been taken off the French in main land Europe (and not in Sharpes Eagle thats fiction!). Cornwell writes in the historic notes in the back of the book that he could not bring himself to take the glory off the men who fought and died that day. It seems that the reason this book has been written so late in the day is because Cornwell was reluctant to do so, not a great situation to be in as an author. Also the fact that the book is entitles Fury and at no point does Sharpe actually get that angry. He does get injured in this book, but seeking revenge for this is more a sense of honour than anger.
For all its problems with structure and lack of character Sharpes Fury is still a perfectly good book. It is not up to the standard of earlier books in the set, but the writing is still excellent and the sense of occasion and fear of battle remains. If you are new to these books I urge you to try and read them in chronological, or at least written order, as the best books are the prequels and earliest written. As much as I have enjoyed the Sharpe novels over the past years I do think that it is perhaps time that he hangs up his sword and Cornwell concentrates on writing about other areas of history as he is perfectly capable of doing. In short, one for the fans.
Author: Bernard Cornwell
Price: amazon uk - £10.69
play.com - £10.99
This is the long-awaited twenty-first novel in the number one bestselling series featuring Richard Sharpe. In the winter of 1811 the war seemed lost. All Spain has fallen to the French, except for Cadiz which is now the Spanish capital and is under siege. Wellington and his British army are in Portugal, waiting for spring to spark the war to life again. Richard Sharpe and his company are part of a small expeditionary force sent to break a bridge across the River Guadiana. What begins as a brilliant piece of soldiering turns into disaster, thanks to the brutal savagery of the French Colonel Vandal who is leading his battalion to join the siege of Cadiz. Sharpe extricates a handful of men from the debacle and is driven south into the threatened city. There, in Cadiz, he discovers more than one enemy. Many Spaniards doubt Britain's motives and believe their future would be brighter if they made peace with the French, and one of them, a baleful priest, secures a powerful weapon to break the British alliance. He will use a beautiful whore and the letters she received from a wealthy man. The priest will use blackmail, and Sharpe must defeat him in a sinister war of knife and treachery in the dark alleys of the city. Yet the alliance will only survive if the French siege can be lifted. An allied army marches from the city to take on the more powerful French and, once again, a brilliant piece of soldiering turns to disaster, this time because the Spanish refuse to fight. A small British force is trapped by a French army, and the only hope now lies with the outnumbered redcoats who, on a hill beside the sea, refuse to admit defeat. And there, in the sweltering horror of Barossa, Sharpe finds Colonel Vandal again. Sharpe's Fury is based on the real events of the winter of 1811 that led to the extraordinary victory of Barossa, the battle which saw the British capture the first French eagle of the Napoleonic Wars.