Sharpe's Havoc by Bernard Cornwell
Reviewed by Jason Koivu
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
It's been a while since I've read one of Bernard Cornwell's Sharpe books. I read most of the series some years back, but there are still one or two left that I haven't gotten around to. The series would make more sense if it were read in chronological order, because Cornwell set these books to run throughout the entirety of the Napoleonic Wars from start to finish.
However, he was also smart enough to make each book a solid stand-alone read. You can pick up any throughout the series and you won't necessarily feel lost. That's not because he loads you down with all the backstory in each book. He doesn't. The fact is, you don't need backstory to enjoy these. They're action/adventure good-time books, like romance novels for those who prefer guns over roses.
And yet, having said that, there is always a romance element. Our hero is forever saving some damsel in distress and then often getting her out of dis dress. I don't know how many ridiculously beautiful, young and ditzy English dames were flouncing about Europe in the middle of that war, but I think Sharpe found them all.
Aside from the well-described action scenes, one of the draws for me has been Cornwell's excellent eye for history. He adds some colorful period details, yes, but I mean adding actual history to his fictional series. It provides the characters and their actions gravitas. Sharpe's Havoc is set in Portugal when Wellington took over and the British were working with the Portuguese to toss the French out of the country. This was the beginning of the turning of the tide in the fight against the little dictator...or the perfectly average-sized dictator, I should say if I'm being historically accurate.
I chalk this one up as another victory for Cornwell. Solid plot, adequately evil baddies, the rough and ready Lt Sharpe's in good form and all is well in the world!
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