Richard Sharpe is sent to Copenhagen to deliver a bribe to stop the Danes handing over possession of their battle fleet to the French.
It seems very easy. But nothing is easy in a Europe stirred by French ambitions. The Danes possess a battle fleet that could replace every ship the French lost at Trafalgar, and Napoleon's forces are gathering to take it. The British have to stop them, while the Danes insist on remaining neutral.
Dragged into a war of spies and brutality, Sharpe finds that he is a sacrificial pawn. But pawns can sometimes change the game, and Sharpe makes his own rules. When he discovers a traitor in his midst, he becomes a hunter in a city besieged by British troops.
Soldier, hero, rogue - Sharpe is 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.
©2001 Bernard Cornwell (P)2014 HarperCollins Publishing Limited
"Sharpe and his creator are national treasures."(Sunday Telegraph)
"Bernard Cornwell is a literary miracle. Year after year, hail, rain, snow, war and political upheavals fail to prevent him from producing the most entertaining and readable historical novels of his generation." (Daily Mail)
"Cornwell's narration is quite masterly and supremely well-researched." (Observer)
"The best battle scenes of any writer I've ever read, past or present. Cornwell really makes history come alive." (George R.R. Martin)
Every so often I return to Sharpe books as a fun piece of escapism and sharp relief from my regular diet of non-fiction audiobooks. Having recently listened through the first five books in the series (not the first five written) I have been increasingly struck by how formulaic they can be. They are enjoyable in the way that a quiet night in can be but after a few in quick succession the repetition becomes hard to ignore. On that front Sharpe's Prey could almost be a case study.
Before the complaints let me touch on the positives. As pure escapism in isolation of the series Sharpe's Prey is fine. Richard Sharpe remains a likeable but roguish character and the pace of the romp never slows and the story never lags.
There is, however, the issue of Cornwell's themes that are dangerously close to cliches: the attractive woman who immediately, and somewhat inexplicably, falls in love with Sharpe; the upper class rogue villain who is betraying Sharpe and his country; the interfering officer class who can't see past Sharpe's background; the implausible centrality of Sharpe to any important historical event of the early 19th century.
I realise the last criticism is unfair, the whole point of the series is to explore key historical moments through the avatar of Sharpe but in Sharpe's Prey, and moreso in the risible Sharpe's Trafalgar, it feels like he has been shoehorned somewhere he had no place being rather than naturally following a plausible army career in India and Spain.
All in all I would Sharpe's Prey is fine as a piece of slighly silly escapist fun but I would be wary of overdosing on too much of this series in one go as the flaws in the format become more and more apparent.
A man with a child in his ears.
This is still one of my favourite series. Sharpe is a fantastic character of high cunning yet simple, often rather base beliefs. The book has plenty of action and the scenes describing the British attack from within the city are excellent. The descriptions of the effect on the city were extremely vivid.Rupert Farley puts in another masterclass as narrator.
Given the subject matter there isn’t much in the way of major battle scenes, this has a bit more of a cloak and dagger theme. Of course being Sharpe this actually transforms into a cloak and seven-barrelled gun theme! Quite how you hide one of them under a cloak is of course open to question if you should choose to . . .
Accusations of the whole thing becoming a little formulaic aren’t totally unfair but this is action and escapism and it is still teaching me about aspects of our history that I wasn’t fully aware of. Five books in and I would still thoroughly recommend this old series to any military history buffs – though of course most will probably have read it already.
I'm a Bernard Cornwell fan. I have enjoyed almost everything he has written. Sharpe sits along side Thomas of Hookton (The Grail Quest) and Uhtred of Bebbanburg (The Saxon Chronicles) as one of my favourite action men. If you are not familiar with these characters I would say they are well worth anyone's credit to know.
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