Book Review: The Sharpe Series by Bernard Cornwell, books 1 and 2

I’ve not read all the books in the Sharpe series (all 20+ books…) by Bernard Cornwell, but I’ve read 3 so far, and I can tell you that I’ll certainly finish the series, though it’ll probably take awhile.

These books are engrossing from the get-go. The series follows the adventures of Richard Sharpe as he rises through the ranks of the British military during the 18th and 19th centuries. He begins as a private, but earns promotions due to his valor and quick thinking. He confounds the stereotype of a grunt soldier of the time, as he thinks for himself and aspires to surpass his station in life.

Sharpe’s Tiger is the first novel in the series and we meet Private Sharpe in India. He’s been fixated upon by his Sergeant, Obadiah Hakeswill, who wants to break the young soldier who demonstrates great ability and is beginning to catch the eye of his officers. Hakeswill arranges circumstances that Sharpe is sentenced with 2000 lashes–an amount which will certainly kill Sharpe. However, just in the nick of time (200 lashes in…) Sharpe is selected to participate in a rescue mission in a nearby town. Sharpe demonstrates intelligence and great bravery while on this mission, receiving an award.

The second book in the series, Sharpe’s Triumph, sees Sharpe still in India, but he continues to excel at all he does. He desires to become an officer–an aspiration almost unheard of at the time, but he’s determined…

These aren’t incredibly deep or philosophical, other than challenging the preconceptions of the military at the time, when a commission was purchased, not earned, and promotions were given by seniority, not through achievement. They contain some great action and good characters. I have greatly enjoyed reading them and I’ll certainly continue.

Richard Sharpe is portrayed by the great Sean Bean in the TV Movies, which I hope to watch sometime soon if I can track the DVDs down!


2 thoughts on “Book Review: The Sharpe Series by Bernard Cornwell, books 1 and 2

  1. I really like Paul McGann as the narrator (and not just because he was the 8th Doctor…)–he’s the best I’ve found, but the others are just fine.

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