‘Sharpe’s Assassin’ Book Review By Ron Fortier

Sharpe's Assassin Book Review By Ron Fortier

By Bernard Cornwell
Harper Books
320 pages

This is the 23rd entry in the Sharpe saga; a series of historical fiction adventures by British writer Bernard Cornwell centered on the character of Richard Sharpe. The inspiration for the books came from C.S. Forester’s Horatio Hornblower novels about a Royal Navy officer’s career from midshipman to Admiral of the Fleet during the time of the Napoleonic Wars. Because he could not find a similar series for the British Army, Cornwell decided to write it himself.

His novels and short stories chart the career of a young London orphan who enters the army rather than going to jail. It begins in “Sharpe’s Tiger” with Sharpe a private in the 33rd Regiment of Foot who is continually promoted until he finally rises to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel in “Sharpe’s Waterloo.” The books were so popular as to inspire a British TV series that starred actor Sean Bean.

We are fairly certain Cornwell’s legion of readers will need no coercion from this reviewer to pick up this new chapter in Sharpe’s fantastic life. As this is our first exposure to the character, we trust our thoughts will inspire other novices to the fold.

“Sharpe’s Assassin” begins only a few short days after the historical battle of Waterloo and Napoleon’s defeat. The French army is in tatters and fleeing south to Paris followed by the victorious British and Prussian troops. When the Duke of Wellington learns of a conspiracy among French officers to have him assassinated in retaliation for the defeat, he assigns Sharpe to proceed to the capital and there ferret out the assassins. Sharpe and his companions, junior officers under his command, begrudgingly take on the mission though all of them are sick and tired of war that seems endless in their eyes.

Once in the City of Lights, Sharpe eventually finds evidence of a French battalion under the command of a skilled officer known as the Monster. From the reports he uncovers, this fellow named Lanier may very well be his equal in military tactics and ferocity. Within days of the British Army’s arrival, Sharpe foils a plot to blow up the mansion in which Wellington and his staff are residing. Ultimately he confronts Lanier face to face and confirms his opponent is a very real threat and their eventual conflict will most likely leave one of them dead.

Writer Cornwell’s genius is a terrific depiction of combat scenes. His knowledge of period weaponry is perfect and his ability to pull the reader into the action is masterful. By the book’s final battle sequence, we found ourselves cheering Sharpe and his men as they rally under his banner for one final, glorious victory. “Sharpe’s Assassin” is a delight to anyone who appreciated good historical adventures. It made us wish we’d met Richard Sharpe a whole lot sooner.

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