Sharpe’s Command

Harper. (Sharpe, Bk. 23). Apr. 2024. 320p. ISBN 9780063219298. $30. F
The latest novel in Cornwell’s series about rifleman Richard Sharpe (following Sharpe’s Assassin) depicts the protagonist as a major in Wellington’s army, doggedly pursuing England’s enemies across Europe in the Napoleonic Wars. Advancing into Spain, General Hill’s troops are faced by two French armies, one north of the River Tagus, and the other south. Separately they’re manageable, but if combined, they’ll overwhelm Hill’s forces. A pontoon bridge crossing the Tagus at Almaraz is the only way they can be joined. Sharpe is sent ahead to destroy the bridge with a ragtag troop of riflemen, assisted by one cannonry expert and surrounded by enemy forts and hundreds of Frenchmen on both sides of the river. Without meretricious psychologizing, Cornwell makes his characters come alive. Sharpe is no superman, but he converts his fears in battle into prudence and a drive to destroy his enemy before it can destroy him. The novel ends in an exciting mano-a-mano between the two partisan leaders.
VERDICT Cornwell again makes writing flawless historical prose seem effortless.
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