Bernard Cornwell, Sharpe’s Havoc


The author of the swashbuckling Sharpe series of adventures fighting the French during the Napoleonic Wars, Bernard Cornwell is a premier writer of historical military adventures. This is one of only 85 numbered and signed copies in a special binding with an appreciation by the historical adventure writer Simon Scarrow.

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Bernard Cornwell is the most prolific and best known author of historical adventure stories of his generation. His work is in the tradition of historical adventure established by G A Henty, C S Forester and his near contemporary George MacDonald Fraser. More than one critic has noted that the Sharpe adventures are like Hornblower on land. Richard Sharpe is a ranker and he uses his wit and charm to occasionally move in the higher echelons of society – much as a private detective does in say the Raymond Chandler mystery novels and his successors. This device allows Sharpe and his sidekick Harper to a kind of detective duo, to find things out, have some influence and to make alliances when favours need to repaid. But it is not just the machinations behind the scenes that Cornwell’s books are famous for; it is the action and rough and tumble on the battlefield (or sailing ship) that gets the adrenalin going. Bernard Cornwell has written 21 books with Richard Sharpe and his colleagues serving against the French. Sharpe has become a hero figure and the Sharpe Appreciation Society frequently has many hundreds in attendance at its annual convention.

Sharpe’s Havoc is set during the French invasion of Portugal in 1809 and Sir Arthur Wellesley’s devastating counter-attack. Patrick Harper is back, as is Captain Hogan. The book slots between Sharpe’s Rifles and Sharpe’s Eagle This edition contains an appreciation by the historical adventure writer Simon Scarrow.


4.50 out of 5

2 reviews for Bernard Cornwell, Sharpe’s Havoc

  1. 4 out of 5

    Rating by Curtis Edmonds on May 9, 2012 :

    Review posted on the Book Reporter Network by Curtis Edmonds.

    The surprising thing about SHARPE’S HAVOC has nothing to do with
    its content. The content of the Richard Sharpe books — this is
    the nineteenth — is generally the same. There is a mission, a
    woman and an enemy for Richard Sharpe — and usually a lot of hard
    fighting along the way. SHARPE’S HAVOC is no different, which is
    not surprising. There is a mission; Lieutenant Richard Sharpe must
    keep his rag-tag band of Riflemen safe as they rejoin Lord
    Wellington’s army fighting the French in Portugal in 1809. There is
    a woman; Kate Savage, the beautiful young daughter of an English
    wine merchant, who Sharpe must protect from the ravages of war. And
    there is an enemy; one Colonel Christopher of the Foreign Office,
    who is busy sneaking around behind enemy lines, trying to arrange
    for the surrender of British troops to the perfidious French and
    makes the mistake of stealing Richard Sharpe’s telescope.
    But it is the setting that is surprising. The first twelve Richard
    Sharpe books were all set during the Napoleonic conflict, taking
    Sharpe from an anonymous quartermaster in northern Spain to a
    battalion commander at Waterloo. The next volume, SHARPE’S DEVIL,
    moved the action to Chile (which is where Patrick O’Brian’s
    Aubrey-Maturin series also winds up). After that, Cornwell authored
    three books about Sharpe’s early career in India and the two most
    recent books dealt primarily with naval battles, of all
    SHARPE’S HAVOC takes us back to the Peninsular Campaign, filling in
    a gap between the first and second of the Sharpe books. It takes
    place in Portugal, right at the time that Sir Arthur Wellesley
    (later Lord Wellington) takes over His Majesty’s army on the
    Peninsula and uses it to beat the living daylights out of the
    French. The French invasion of Portugal has shattered British
    morale and left Sharpe the leader of a small platoon of
    green-jacketed regulars separated from the rest of the army. With
    the help of stalwart sergeant Patrick Harper and an alliance with
    an idealistic Portuguese lawyer-turned-soldier, Sharpe must protect
    the girl, defeat the enemy and complete the mission, just as he has
    done so many times before.
    The challenge for Bernard Cornwell here is to return to the scene
    of his greatest triumph and produce another book about the
    Peninsular Campaign to stand with his earlier works (that, and to
    keep his fingers from falling off from typing too much; there’s a
    second book in his new series about the Holy Grail coming out this
    year as well). It’s a challenge that he more than meets. Even
    though the characters, setting and plot are familiar, Cornwell
    manages to put them into new and tense situations. Sharpe and
    Harper witness a horrific bridge collapse, defend a remote
    mountaintop fort and lead the way for a daring British invasion of
    a Portuguese seminary. The action scenes crackle with intensity and
    excitement. There’s even a heroic French officer leading the charge
    against Sharpe — Cornwell describes him as “Sharpe-like”, a high
    compliment indeed — who emerges as a brave opponent, for
    Where SHARPE’S HAVOC falls short, compared to its predecessors, is
    in its other two elements. The villain, Colonel Christopher, is a
    weak, backstabbing little man, no real match for Sharpe. And the
    woman, Kate Savage, is a little slip of a girl, caught up in
    Christopher’s cowardly embrace but saved by her sense of patriotism
    and duty.
    But all of this is subordinated to the pleasure that fans of the
    series will take in seeing Sharpe and Harper together again,
    marching against the French and fighting against terrible odds. And
    for people who aren’t yet fans of Richard Sharpe, SHARPE’S HAVOC is
    as good a place as any to introduce yourself to a scarred English
    Rifleman and his band of thieves, poachers and outcasts. Because
    SHARPE’S HAVOC is a good read — and that shouldn’t come as a
    surprise to anyone.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Rating by Simon Scarrow on May 9, 2012 :

    From the Appreciation in this edition by Simon Scarrow.

    “As a boy I was lucky enough to have a father who thrust C.S. Forester novels into my hands as fast as he could find, read and pass them on. Once the tales of Hornblower had been exhausted there was always Alexander Kent, Dudley Pope and Patrick O’Brian to tuck into, but where was a chap to turn after the fascinating duo of Spanish Peninsular War novels; Death to the French and The Gun? To be sure there were a few other novels, but no series to follow. And then Bernard Cornwell came along and presented his incomparable Richard Sharpe to fans of the historical novel. My father followed the series from the outset and made sure that I was kept supplied with Sharpe’s tales. We have both been avid fans over the twenty years that Bernard has been crafting these excellent novels. On reflection, I begin to wonder how such a sustained interest in one series is maintained. Bernard has produced other series in the past, and is in the early stages of a new series featuring Thomas of Hookton, a kind of Sharpe-with-longbow character. We’ll have to see how Thomas develops, but for now it is Richard Sharpe who stands head and shoulders above other fictional heroes. The question is, what is it that Sharpe has that other characters don’t? What is it that makes him so much more fascinating than Nathaniel Starbuck or Richard Bolitho, or Lord Ramage? First, I think, it is the fact that Sharpe is a perpetual outsider. He is distanced from most of his fellow officers by class, and from most of the footsloggers by rank. It is an excellent writer’s device to place a leading character in such a matrix of conflicting tensions and pressures. We readers are constantly wondering how Sharpe will deal with incompetent and snobby superiors, and cheering him on when he rubs their noses in it. At the other end of the social scale we share his sensitivity to the squalid conditions of a common soldier’s existence, and we admire the results of the tough discipline and high expectations he imposes on Wellington’s despised and much put-upon other ranks (a kind of short, Sharpe shock treatment). … This volume, Sharpe’s Havoc, sees the rifleman arriving in Portugal in 1809. He joins the tiny British army confronting vastly superior French forces. With the tough and loyal Sergeant Harper at his side, and the elite Greenjackets to back him up, woe betide anyone who stands in his way! “

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