Sharpe’s Fortress: India 1803
© 1999 Bernard Cornwell
There’s nothing quite so miserable as a good sergeant who’s been made into purposeless officer. Mister Richard Sharpe is a man with a mission — the defeat of renegade-murder Dodd — but as an ensign in his majesty’s Royal Army, he’s stuck behind the lines supervising the bullock train in the company of his worst enemies. Leave it to Sharpe to get himself into more trouble than he’s ever been in, though: Sharpe’s Fortress could have just as easily been titled Sharpe’s Peril. Rejected by the other officers and betrayed by his comrades, Ensign Sharpe is left alone to prove himself still a soldier against impossible odds — resulting in one of Cornwell’s more fantastic endings.
Sharpe’s Fortress takes place in 1803, as Sir Arthur Wellesley’s tiny army moves to crush the remnants of the Mahratta Confederation, commanded partially by the traitor Dodd, who has taken refuge in the fortress Galwighur. For him and the Mahrattas resisting British colonial expansion, the forthcoming siege will lead to victory or death: there is no escape from this citadel upon the high cliffs. Sharpe’s Fortress is one of the better Sharpe novels I’ve read up to this point: and not only for the ending battle and Sharpe’s usual heroics. While they carry the novel, a new villain provides considerable comedy. I’m not sure if Cornwell intended this, but I delighted in every scene the man was in. The Indian trilogy overall has been superb, and I think I shall continue to read the series in chronological sequence.