Sharpe’s Trafalgar: Spain 1805
© 2001 Bernard Cornwell
Richard Sharpe did well for himself in India, rising in the ranks from private to Ensign, as well as finding love and fortune. But while Sharpe has been helping Britain grow powerful in India, an ambitious man named Napoleon has turned France from a nation divided by civil war into a power which dictates the fortunes of all of Europe. Only Britain’s small navy stands between it and invasion by the new French Empire’s grand fleet. When Ensign Sharpe sails home to Britain, he’s caught between an epic naval confrontation and thrown into the furore of one of the Napoleonic War’s most decisive battles: Trafalgar
Bernard Cornwell notes in the novel’s afterword that a soldier such as Sharpe has no business in a naval battle like Trafalgar, but it’s not Sharpe’s fault that his ship was seized by a French privateer en route to join France’s fleet. Aside from a little derring-do on shore, where Sharpe brings a dead man to life and makes a steadfast friend in an English naval captain, Trafalgar takes almost entirely aboard ship — making Trafalgar a case of “Richard Sharpe meets Horatio Hornblower”. Instead of focusing on naval maneuvers, however, Cornwell uses Sharpe to tell the story of the Marines, who, given Britain’s preference for close combat, and Admiral Lord Nelson’s desire to capture the enemy fleet — have an important part to play. The battle itself is the climax of a plot rich in mystery and treason, where Sharpe’s fortune and future are placed in jeopardy.
Trafalgar is yet another strong title in Sharpe’s Series, one which offers a refreshing change from land battles and gives our hero a new ally, one who I was glad to see return in Sharpe’s Prey.
- Hornblower and the Crisis, for Hornblower’s own role associated with Trafalgar.