Sharpe’s Prey: Denmark 1807
© 2001 Bernard Cornwell
Richard Sharpe has fallen from grace — or rather, the Lady Grace, his love, has fallen from him, perished in childbirth along with his child. His Indian fortune has been legally stolen from him by Grace’s family, and now Sharpe is heartbroken and penniless. After settling a childhood score and running for his life, Sharpe is saved from further ruin when an old friend asks him to escort an admiral’s aide to Denmark on a mission of utmost importance. Sharpe — professional rogue — has become a spy, intent on convincing the Crown Prince of Denmark to send his ships to Britain for safekeeping against the threat of Napoleon. When the mission is destroyed through treason and Sharpe stranded in Denmark to fend for himself, he’s forced to choose between love for an innocent woman and her country, and his duty to Britain — for since Sharpe’s mission to secure the Danish fleet has failed, the British navy must destroy it least it be seized by Napoleon
Sharpe’s Prey is almost a complete departure from Cornwell’s usual fare, turning his hero into a spy far removed from the battlefield. Weakened by his recent losses, Sharpe still has to command his usual strength and wiliness to survive the debacle he’s been thrown into. I enjoyed the novel’s Danish setting, centered in the exquisitely beautiful city of Copenhagen. Since the novel is a prequel to the core of the Sharpe series — the fighting in Europe against Napoleon — I knew Sharpe wouldn’t truly decide to stay in Denmark and seek a quiet life, but watching him almost yearn for peace after all of his battles, victories, and losses, makes him a more sympathetic character. The villain is an odd duck: I wasn’t sure if he was a devious, sociopathic creep or just affably self-centered. Prey is an excellent spy adventure which leads right into Sharpe’s Rifles, where poor Sharpe is still a miserable quartermaster…the fate he tried to escape earlier on in Prey.
I think Sharpe’s Prey shall rank among my favorite in the series.