Sharpe’s Triumph: India 1803
© 1998 Bernard Cornwell
Four years have passed since Richard Sharpe destroyed the Tippoo Sultan’s empire and earned his sergeant’s stripes, and those four years have been relatively peaceful. But now a malicious officer (Dodd) in the East India Company has betrayed his country, murdered the king’s officers, and offered his services to one of the many varied polities in India resisting Britain’s presence. Sharpe, who survived a brutal assault by Dodd, is one of the few redcoats in India who can recognize him — and thus he joins the army making its way to destroy the turncoat and his new allies. The odds are fantastically against Sharpe and Wellesley, but long odds are the primordial soup from which heroes are born.
Sharpe’s Triumph is a novel of ambition. Sharpe wants more out of life than sergeant’s stripes, his general Wellesley wants his first major battlefield victory, and Sharpe’s old sergeant — Obadiah Hakeswill, whom I hate with a fervor I’ve not felt since I met Lucius Malfoy — wants to destroy the uppity sergeant for not showing him the proper respect. Since Sharpe literally threw Hakeswill to the
lions tigers, our hero may be in legal trouble if Hakeswill actually catches up with him. In the meantime he has more pressing matters to attend to, like surviving in enemy territory during reconnaissance, and seeing Wellesley — whom he is temporarily serving as aide, since the last fellow lost his head — safely through the Battle of Assaye. The actual battle didn’t interest me as much as the espionage of Sharpe’s Tiger, but I looked forward to the scene in which Sharpe so astonishes Wellesley with his prowess that he earns admission into the officers’ ranks. Hakeswill’s dogged pursuit of Sharpe also intrigued me, largely because I despise his character and feared that he might actually be able to get one over on our hero. Though the novel ends in triumph, the victory isn’t quite complete — that shall wait until Sharpe’s Fortress.
Sharpe’s Challenge borrows heavily from Sharpe’s Tiger and Sharpe’s Triumph, though Triumph’s greatest contribution is the character of Dodd.