Book Review: Bernard Cornwell’s Sharpe’s Fortress: India 1803

Posted October 20, 2011 by Kathy Davie in Book Reviews

I received this book for free from the library in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Book Review: Bernard Cornwell’s Sharpe’s Fortress: India 1803

Sharpe's Fortress: India 1803


Bernard Cornwell

historical fiction, military fiction that was published by HarperCollins on 1999 and has 320 pages.

Explore it on Goodreads or Amazon.

Other books by this author which I have reviewed include Sharpe's Trafalgar: Richard Sharpe & the Battle of Trafalgar, October 21, 1805, arpe's Prey: Denmark, 1807, Sharpe's Rifles, Sharpe's Havoc: Portugal 1809, Sharpe’s Eagle, Sharpe’s Escape: Richard Sharpe and the Bussaco Campaign, Sharpe's Gold: Richard Sharpe and the Destruction of Almeida, Sharpe's Battle: Richard Sharpe and the Battle of Fuentes de Oñoro, Sharpe's Company, Sharpe's Sword, Sharpe's Fury: Richard Sharpe and the Battle of Barrosa, Sharpe's Enemy: The Defense of Portugal, Christmas 1812, Sharpe's Honor, Sharpe's Regiment

Third in the Richard Sharpe historical military fiction series set in the early 19th century.

My Take

I adore this series. I first learned of it through the BBC series and was intrigued enough to start reading the series. It’s definitely worth buying, and I read it over and over again. A fascinating exploration of military tactics, military history, and social manners across a wide range of society and cultures.

If you enjoy battle and lots of action, you will adore Richard Sharpe. I love how he gets the best of Major Torrance, find the, ahem, missing military supplies, finds justice for men, women, and children while using his sly wit and street smarts to overwhelm his personal enemies especially, ugh, the jettis who intend to literally tear Sharpe into little, bitty pieces and Obadiah and his cohorts.

Wellington is determined to make a name for himself militarily and get back to England. He’s also an extremely reluctant admirer of Sharpe’s. Funnily enough, intelligent men of rank also admire Sharpe for his sharpness and do their best to support his actions in spite of those soldiers who despise Sharpe for his origins and his intelligence.

This story ends Richard’s Indian adventures.

The Story

The Mahratta confederation has rebelled against the English, and it’s Sir Arthur’s job to subdue them as they lead him a merry chase across India to the invincible Fortress of Gawilghur where several of Sharpe’s enemies has taken refuge. And Richard has sworn vengeance against the man who murdered Colonel McCandless at the battle of Assaye.

Unfortunately for Richard, his officers don’t want him, and he’s passed on and on. Good thing actually as it continues to bring him positive attention from ranking officers even as he must slither through the plots of those against him.

The Characters

Richard Sharpe is the “scum of the earth” according to anyone of any rank, and admittedly, Richard has only recently learned to read and write and the manners of those above him are still outside his experience. But moving up the ranks for someone like him has its negatives for neither the enlisted nor the officers really know what to do with him. There is also a little matter of Sharpe’s innocence with the ladies.

Major General Sir Arthur Wellesley is still at the start of his career, but is slowly starting to win the men over with his tactics.

Sergeant Obadiah Hakeswill is a “lying, thieving bastard” who continues to hound, harass, and plot against Sharpe. The guy is whacko-nutso and believes he cannot die ever since he was hung and it didn’t take. I can’t decide if he’s merely a sociopath or a psychopathic sociopath…

Major William Dodd leads his Cobras, his own army of British Army renegades, in aid of the Mahratta intending to make his fortune and keep out of British hands for his traitorous conduct. If he can take out Sharpe…it’s a bonus.

The Cover and Title

The cover pays homage to battle with a telescope, British rifle, drum, bedroll, Union Jack, and a Scots bonnet piled up on the rocky ground with the fortress of Gawilghur rising up far in the distance on the Deccan Plain through the early dawn.

The title is accurate enough for it’s thanks to Sharpe’s ingenuity and never-say-die attitude that the British get inside Sharpe’s Fortress.