Thursday, April 6, 2017

Sharpe's Eagle, by Bernard Cornwell

Today I'm looking at what is the eighth book chronologically in the Sharpe series but was actually the first book published, Shape's Eagle, which focuses on events leading up to and concluding in the Battle of Talavera. In this book Sharpe and his platoon of thirty-odd riflemen are sent with Captain Hogan of the engineers to blow up a bridge along the British planned line of advance. As part of alliance politics a Spanish regiment and the fictional South Essex Regiment are sent along as an escort. What is supposed to be a nice, boring assignment turns into a disaster when the South Essex, led by an armchair colonel, gets badly beaten and loses one of their regimental colors to the French. The only way Sharpe can hope to regain the regiment's honor, and incidentally rescue his career, is to capture those most cherished of tokens: a French eagle, presented to the unit by Napoleon himself.

Honestly I haven't got a lot to say about this book because after eight books they're starting to feel all the same. This series has a formula and it works. Sharpe is usually put in a very difficult situation, and with pluck, determination, a huge dose of luck, and his willingness to kill anyone who gets in his way Sharpe manages to carry the day and things work out. Maybe not a lot better than last time, but at least no worse. And of course there's a girl that Sharpe falls for, instantly and hard, but alas his relationship is doomed because of his penchant to pine after women from the noble classes who he simply can't afford to support. Which makes her woman number six or seven Sharpe's fallen for by this point in the series.

Since this was the first book published I can see patterns which Cornwell basically kept with as he wrote this series across some twenty-odd stories and since this is the eighth one I'm reading it feels like very well-worn and familiar ground. So if you're looking for something new and engaging and different, I hate to say it but this book hardly provides that. There's nothing in this book that hasn't been done in the seven I've read previously and I fully expect the next dozen or so books to have pretty much the same plots. Cornwell does meticulous research and includes lots of detail about life in Napoleonic armies, but in terms of variation of plot there's a lot to be desired.

I honestly think I read these books as popcorn entertainment. There's not a lot of substance to them plot-wise, and Sharpe is kind of scary as a character, but I enjoy reading these books. So if you enjoy these sorts of adventures then you'll like this one as well, but if you're not interested in Sharpe you're not really missing anything.

- Kalpar

No comments:

Post a Comment