Not the first series about soldiers in the Revolutionary/Napoleonic wars, but certainly one of the best. This series scored big time by being made into a series of telemovies. Initially written chronologically from the time of Talavera on, Cornwell has since returned to fill in some of (but not yet all of) the gaps. Sharpe is a gutter rat ranker, who manages to make the jump to officer and joins the 2nd battalion of the 95th Rifles, one of the most famous regiments in the Peninsular War.
Cut off during the retreat to Corunna/Vigo, Sharpe leads his small group of survivors back south to Portugal, where they join Wellesley's army as a detachment. [This is fortunate, since after Vigo the second battalion went on the Walcheren expedition and was nearly destroyed by "Walcheren Fever" (malaria), most of the survivors being invalided out of the army in the next couple of years.] Seconded to (and given a field captaincy in) the fictional South Essex after the battalion was badly cut up and demoralised, the stories follow his career with the South Essex during the Peninsular War and later at Waterloo. Recently Sharpe's early career with the 33rd in India has been chronicled and an incident in his later life added.
Cornwell is still writing, filling in more gaps in Sharpe's career.
Notes:The publisher originally intended the title of "Sharpe's Prey" to be "Sharpe's Fury", but changed it at Bernard Cornwell's insistence. Images of the planned cover are still floating around on web sites.
Mr Cornwell now has his own website.
Read in this order, the inevitable inconsistencies which arise from the "gap-filling" are not as noticeable.
|1981||Sharpe's Eagle||Jul 1809||Talavera Campaign
Lieutenant Sharpe of the 95th Rifles is stuck in Portugal, after being cut off during the retreat from Corunna. A bridge blowing expedition which goes wrong sees Sharpe promoted brevet-captain, but can he keep the rank?
|1982||Sharpe's Gold||August 1810||Destruction of Almeida
Sharpe and his company are sent to hunt for a missing British officer and a consignment of Spanish Gold.
|1982||Sharpe's Company||Jan-Apr 1812||Ciudad Rodrigo, Badajoz
Sharpe's brevet promotion has not been ratified, and another officer purchases his company. To add to his worries, his Spanish girlfriend informs him they have a baby daughter - in Badajoz!
|1983||Sharpe's Sword||Jun-Jul 1812||Salamanca
Curtis, Wellington's top agent in Spain is under threat from a ruthless French colonel and Sharpe is set the job of keeping him alive.
|1984||Sharpe's Enemy||Dec 1812||Nth Portugal
A organised, multinational group of deserters is terrorising northern Portugal, and have both a French and a British hostage. Will the French use this as an excuse to gain a foothold in Portugal again?
|1985||Sharpe's Honour||Feb-Jun 1813||Vittoria
A Spanish nobleman accuses Sharpe of raping his wife, a charge of which Sharpe is innocent. Why is he doing it, and will Sharpe survive the court-martial?
|1986||Sharpe's Regiment||Jun-Nov 1813||Franco-Spanish border, London
The South Essex are dwindling, and calls for reinforcements from their second battalion are going unanswered. Sharpe heads for England to find out why.
|1987||Sharpe's Siege||Jan Feb 1814||Bayonne
A Royalist French Count swears that the Bordeau district is ready to rise against Napoleon, so Sharpe and his men set off by sea to find out if it's true.
|1988||Sharpe's Rifles||Jan-Feb 1809||Galicia, Moore's retreat
Quarter-master Lieutenant Sharpe is looking after his companies during the retreat to Corunna, when they are cut off. As the only surviving officer Sharpe must take charge, but will the men obey him?
|1989||Sharpe's Revenge||Apr-? 1814||France
Peace at last, but Sharpe is in prison, framed by Ducos for murder and the theft of Napoleon's gold.
|1990||Sharpe's Waterloo||Jun 1815||Waterloo
Sharpe is running Lucille's farm in Normandy when the call comes to rejoin the army for Waterloo. Sharpe has had enough of fighting, but the chance of his Lieutenant-Colonelcy with an increased pension draws him back.
|1992||Sharpe's Devil||1820-21||Chilean Revolution
Louisa Vivar (from Sharpe's Rifles) comes to ask a favour. Blas has gone missing in revolution-torn Venezuela and she wants Sharpe to look for him.
|1995||Sharpe's Battle||May 1811||Fuentes de Onoro
The Spanish government has sent the Royal Irish Regiment to assist the British. Wellington wants none of them, but with a bit of luck Sharpe will scare them back to Cadiz.
|1997||Sharpe's Tiger||Apr-May 1799||Seringapatam
Private Sharpe is being hounded by the evil Sergeant Obadiah Hakeswill to the point of desertion. Can he save himself and can he save his woman, Mary Bickerstaff?
|1998||Sharpe's Triumph||-Sep 1803||Assaye
Sergeant Sharpe is sent on a secret mission with Colonel McCandless of the East India Company which brings him into contact with the enemy commanders. They offer him a commision in the Mahratta army, but Sharpe wants a British commission.
|1999||Sharpe's Fortress||Nov-Dec 1803||Argaum, Gawilghur
Ensign Sharpe is finding life as an officer less than pleasant. Was it such a great thing to have made the jump from the ranks?
|2000||Sharpe's Trafalgar||Oct 1805||Trafalgar
On the recommendation of Colonel Wallace, Sharpe has transferred to the newfangled 95th Rifles, and now 2nd Lieutenant Sharpe is on his way home to join them.
Something is rotten in the state of Denmark, and 2nd Lieutenant Sharpe is sent to find out what.
Wellesley's back in charge at Lisbon, but the French have regained Oporto. Influential British interests want action and Sharpe is sent north to start it.
|2003||Sharpe's Escape||1810||The retreat to Torres Vedras
Read in this order, you get a better sense of the history of the period
|1803||Nov-Dec||Sharpe's Fortress||Argaum, Gawilghur||1999|
|1810||Sep-Oct||Sharpe's Escape||Bussaco and the retreat to Torres Vedras||2004|
|1811||May||Sharpe's Battle||Fuentes de Onoro||1995|
|1812||Jan-Apr||Sharpe's Company||Ciudad Rodrigo, Badajoz||1982|
|1812||Dec||Sharpe's Enemy||Nth Portugal||1984|
|1813||Jun-Nov||Sharpe's Regiment||Franco-Spanish Border, London||1986|
"The Sharpe Companion" by Mark Adkin fills in some of the military and historical background to the series. It was published not long after "Sharpe's Tiger" and covers all the novels written up to that point. The maps are excellent and the information on the period is good. Adkin drew the ire of some Sharpe fans by attempting to fill in the gaps in Sharpe's career, some of his insertions being contradicted by the later novels.
I've had a bit of fun filling in some of the gaps myself. You can find my humble homage to the works of Bernard Cornwell on my Fan Fiction Page.
Images on this page are used by kind permission of Harper Collins Publishers Ltd
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Last update 3/12/04