As you might have noticed I have a new system of review. I will try to keep this for all following reviews. I hope you’ll like it. I am always open for suggestions for improvement. In my overall-rating I count in the stars for plot, characters, setting and style. I am rating up to 5 stars. The rating in the box is not counted in here, because in my opinion it is not necessarily bad when a book does not have THAT much feeling or THAT much action or something like this. The box is only for a short overview to help you decide whether this book might be something you like or not.
Expectations before reading
Since this is a books series and I have read one of the books of these series before I kind of knew what to expect. Another historical novel of battles in India. With at least one very great battle of historical importance. This sounds a bit boring now, but it is not.
The cover of the book tells a bit more about what is going to happen in the book. It reads:
“The Battle of Assaye, September 1803
In which Sergeant Richard Sharpe witnesses a murderous act of treachery and with Sir Arthur Wellesley faces the Mahratta Horde.”
I really like the fact that the year is mentioned on the cover, this way you can place the events much better.
The back of the book promises even more action, it reads:
“Be prepared for scenes of great Action & Heroics
‘I saw you fight at Seringapatam and I doubt Dodd can stand up to you.’ ‘He won’t, sir, he won’t,’ Sharpe said grimly. ‘And I’ll keep you alive.’ ‘If God wills it.’ Sharpe smiled. ‘Don’t they say God helps those who help themselves, sir? We’ll do the job, sir.’ “
And below this it says some words about the novel’s hero – a short note that is probably found on every book of this series:
Soldier, hero, rogue – the man you always want on your side. Born in poverty, he joined the army to escape jail and climbed the ranks by sheer brutal courage. He knows no other family than the regiment of the 95th Rifles whose green jacket he proudly wears.”
I like the combination of short quote from the book and the short summary of events on the cover which is both not telling too much but still making one curious.
On the first pages of the novel a short review of the Observer is placed, sounding promising:
“Cornwell’s narration is quite masterly and supremely well-researched. When, at the very end, he tells us that ‘Sharpe will march again’ you feel that here is one writer who has got the sequel problem licked.”
The plot was, as expected, a war scenery, set in India. For those who know Bernard Cornwell I can say it is a “typical Bernard Cornwell”. Battle planning, some conspiracy and very detailed battle scenes. This might sound a bit negative now, but it is not at all. Humor gets only 2 stars. I have read books by Bernard Cornwell that were much more humorous. This one is mainly very serious, but regarding the plot it is quite fitting. I subtracted one star for suspense because at some parts the story is dragging along, it takes quite a while until it really gets going. For example, the planning of the very last huge battle took too long in my opinion. It might be more interesting for people who like to think about battle strategies and who are more familiar with the different kinds of weapons. Feeling gets only 3 stars since there simply is not much talk about feelings. A bit of course, sometimes, but not much. But this is nothing to be missed, it is a war novel, other things are more important here. Logic/Coherence and structure get full points. It is logic throughout and easy to follow the storyline. I especially also liked the changes of perspective – sometimes the story was told from the British point of view and sometimes from their enemies. Knowing what both sides were planning made the whole story much more interesting and created a lot of tension. Also 5 stars for Action – the battle scenes are, as always in Bernard Cornwell’s books, very detailed and the reader can see the soldiers fight.
Plot gets a total of “only” 4 stars, because it had, as already mentioned, some lengths.
Bernard Cornwell’s characters are, as usual quite original. They don’t only by their actions but also by their way of talking. While the characters of the higher ranks talk more sophisticated English, the ones from the lower ranks swear more and don’t always use the right grammar. This displays their background in a very good way. Richard Sharpe is somewhat an exception here. In presence of the Colonel McCandless who has a very special task for him, he tries to talk as decent as possible and not use swearwords.
The aims and goals of the different characters are made quite clear, so you come to understand what drives each character to their actions no matter how much you like or dislike each character. You can even somewhat understand why the main villains in this story, Sergeant Hakeswill and Major Dodd, act as they do.
The characters are described in their outer and inner appearance, but in some cases there could be some more description. Even though this is the second book of Sharpe’s adventures I read, I still have the feeling that I don’t really know this character yet.
The setting gets almost full stars. It is very well researched and the map that is provided among the first pages of the book is very helpful for those who are not that familiar with the Indian setting/landscape. While cities and villages are described into detail, the landscape could be described a bit more detailed. The historical setting is especially well researched. I can very much recommend reading the historical note provided in the back of the book. It is very interesting to compare the story to the actual historical events.
I like Bernard Cornwell’s style of writing, especially in his battle scenes. There his style is very captivating, you as a reader can imagine the scenes very well, you almost have the feeling of watching them fight. In the scenes where battle tactics are planned, the style is at some points more dragging along in my opinion but a reason for this could also be that English is not my native language and I am missing some words. I have to admit that, since I am not very familiar with that many military vocabulary (neither in English nor in German), it was sometimes a bit difficult to follow the strategic planning. But I learned some new words and it became easier in the course of the story.
Opinion after reading
All in all I can really recommend this novel and, so far, the whole series of Bernard Cornwell’s Sharpe books. Especially if you are interested in the British history around 1800 and their actions in India. Reading Bernard Cornwell’s books is always like a very vivid and exciting history lesson.
As you can see above, my rating for this book is 4,25 stars.