Sharpe's Havoc : Richard Sharpe and the Campaign in Northern Portugal, Spring 1809
Bestselling historical novelist Bernard Cornwell returns to the battlefields of the Iberian Peninsula with Sharpe's Havoc, where the lieutenant and his men bravely fight the French invasion into Portugal.
It is 1809, a few years after Lieutenant Richard Sharpe's heroic exploits on the battlefields of India and at Trafalgar, and Sharpe finds himself fighting the savage armies of Napoleon Bonaparte as they try to bring the whole of the Iberian Peninsula under their control. Napoleon is advancing fast in northern Portugal, and no one knows whether the small contingent of British troops stationed in Lisbon will stay to fight or sail back to England. Sharpe, however, does not have a choice: He and his squad of riflemen are on the lookout for the missing daughter of an English wine shipper, when the French onslaught begins and the city of Oporto becomes a setting for carnage and disaster.
Sharpe fans who may have worried that Cornwell's popular series was drawing to a close can heave a sigh of relief-the 19th entry (after 2002's Sharpe's Prey) brings the up-from-the-ranks rifleman back to the Peninsular War where the series began, among such familiar comrades-in-arms as Sergeant Harper and the "old poacher" Dan Hagman. In the treacherous villain role without which no Sharpe adventure would be complete, the Shakespeare-quoting Colonel Christopher plays both sides of the fence in an effort to contrive a peace between the warring parties that will leave him a rich man. But Christopher hasn't reckoned with the new British commander, Sir Arthur Wellesley, the future Duke of Wellington, who arrives in time to catch Marshal Soult's invading army by surprise. Meanwhile, Sharpe and his men, cut off in a Portuguese village, hold off superior French forces with the aid of Lieutenant Vicente, a Portuguese lawyer, poet and philosopher turned soldier. Sharpe's antilawyer barbs, as well as some later banter about the troubled relations between the English and Irish and between the Spanish and Portuguese, provide comic relief, while Kate Savage, a naive 19-year-old Englishwoman seduced by Christopher, lends relatively minor romantic interest. A delicious scene at Wellesley's headquarters, in which Sharpe has to account for his seemingly inactive role, will please aficionados, as will the ringing words with which Cornwell closes his customary afterword on the historical background: "So Sharpe and Harper will march again." (Apr. 1) Forecast: An eight-city author tour, his first in the U.S., plus the human interest story of the author's recent discovery of his biological parents after being give up for adoption at birth, should ensure that Cornwell builds on his ever-increasing U.S. sales. Whether Cornwell will clamber up national bestseller lists, though, as he routinely does in the U.K., remains to be seen. Copyright (c) 1997-2005 Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. -- PUBLISHERS WEEKLY.
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March 02, 2004
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Excerpt from Sharpe's Havoc by Bernard Cornwell
Miss Savage was missing.
And the French were coming.
The approach of the French was the more urgent crisis. The splintering noise of sustained musket fire was sounding just outside the city and in the last ten minutes five or six cannonballs had battered through the roofs of the houses high on the river's northern bank. The Savage house was a few yards down the slope and for the moment was protected from errant French cannon fire, but already the warm spring air hummed with spent musket balls that sometimes struck the thick roof tiles with a loud crack or else ripped through the dark glossy pines to shower needles over the garden. It was a large house, built of white-painted stone and with dark-green shutters closed over the windows. The front porch was crowned with a wooden board on which were gilded letters spelling out the name House Beautiful in English. It seemed an odd name for a building high on the steep hillside where the city of Oporto overlooked the River Douro in northern Portugal, especially as the big square house was not beautiful at all, but quite stark and ugly and angular, even if its harsh lines were softened by dark cedars which would offer welcome shade in summer. A bird was making a nest in one of the cedars and whenever a musket ball tore through the branches it would squawk in alarm and fly a small loop before returning to its work. Scores of fugitives were fleeing past the House Beautiful, running down the hill toward the ferries and the pontoon bridge that would take them safe across the Douro. Some of the refugees drove pigs, goats and cattle, others pushed handcarts precariously loaded with furniture, and more than one carried a grandparent on his back.