A Step Back after a Great Start – 3.5 Stars
Sharpe has now been promoted to sergeant and been reassigned to a battalion of the East India Company. While on a mission to buy stolen ammunition, he witnesses the mass murder of soldiers and civilians alike. He is tasked by Colonel McCandless, his prison mate from the previous book, to track down the leader of the mercenary group that killed the innocent English subjects. Along the way, Sharpe is involved in several battles, including the famous battle of Assaye in which a force of 15,000+ British soldiers face 100,000 mercenary fighters.
Cornwell writes excellent battle scenes. The action occurs quickly and you can taste the tang of gun powder in the air. The battle of Assaye as well as several other skirmishes are well described. This is strength of the series and the main reason I continued from page to page.
Richard Sharpe continues to be a well developed character. He is an enjoyable anti-hero type character. While he fights for the British with some conviction, he is not afraid to fight, kill or steal from those he considers to be evil or unscrupulous. Again, this leads to more interesting plot developments as he is not bound by a strict moral code.
The writing is superb and Cornwell’s use of historical is superb. We meet many historical figure including the great Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington.
But wasn’t that an important battle…
The Battle of Assyne was considered by Arthur Wellesley to be the greatest battle he ever fought. Coming from the man who had defeating Napoleon at Waterloo on his resume, this is high self praise. While the battle scenes were excellent, this battle should have taken an entire book. Given the enormous odds of defeat and the David vs. Goliath numbers, the battle should have been epic. Unfortunately, it received short shrift.
Compared to the previous novels, the support cast was less developed are more one dimensional. It simply did not carry the impact of the first book. While it was still an entertaining and exciting read, it did not compare the first book in the series.
It is difficult to find commentary on the sex/violence/language content of book if you are interested. I make an effort to give you the information so you can make an informed decision before reading. *Disclaimer* I do not take note or count the occurrences of adult language as I read. I am simply giving approximations.
Scale 1 – Lowest 5 – Highest
Sex – 2
There were a few sexual reference and one insinuation that sex may have occurred between two characters. Regardless, the sexual content was low and suitable for younger readers.
Language – 2
The adult language used was minor and used rarely. The main character spent much time with Colonel McCandless was a religious man who frowned on swearing, most occurrence of adult language were followed by a stern rebuke.
Violence – 4
Given that this is a book about war, violence is a main theme. There are multiple battles in which hundreds to thousands of people are killed. Despite this, the descriptions tend to be less graphic than the first book. There several instances where a death is especially grisly and explained in detail. If you wish to avoid violence in your reading, you will want to avoid this novel.