This twenty-first title in Cornwell’s Sharpe series brings the dashing, 19th-century rifleman to Spain during the Napoleonic wars. The drama begins with a battle that sets up Sharpe’s desire for revenge against the French general Vandal, who dogs Sharpe’s steps until the very end of the book. Although the British initially succeed in their mission to blow up a pontoon bridge, one of Sharpe’s men is captured in a very underhanded way, and their commanding officer, General Moon, is wounded in the action. They are forced to hole up in Cadiz, a city currently under siege by the French.
While he is in the Spanish city, the British ambassador hires Sharpe to undertake a dangerous undercover mission to recover some letters—love letters he wrote to a courtesan—that certain Spaniards are using to further the cause of the French. The action reaches a climax, and all the exciting threads of the narrative come together at the battle of Barrosa, where the Spanish desert their British allies, leaving them to fight the French—and Vandal—against seemingly insurmountable odds.
Bernard Cornwell is a marvelous storyteller with an impeccable sense of timing. He keeps the action moving, making generally plausible twists and turns along the way. It hardly matters that Sharpe, despite his dubious background, is almost too good to be true. He is a likable hero who tears through the Napoleonic wars and shows us the grittier side of the conflict in a very believable way. While his encounter with the one significant female character in the book seems a bit superficial, and she herself rather predictable, this small flaw can be forgiven for the sheer pleasure of adventure and excitement to be found throughout the book.
Sharpe’s Fury will appeal to fans of Cornwell’s fiction, and to anyone who wants a good, rollicking read full of blood and action.