Book Review: Bernard Cornwell’s Sharpe’s Trafalgar: Richard Sharpe & the Battle of Trafalgar, October 21, 1805

Posted November 5, 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 Trafalgar: Richard Sharpe & the Battle of Trafalgar, October 21, 1805

Sharpe's Trafalgar: Richard Sharpe & the Battle of Trafalgar, October 21, 1805


Bernard Cornwell

historical fiction, military fiction in Paperback edition that was published by HarperCollins on January 1, 2000 and has 320 pages.

Explore it on Goodreads or Amazon.

Other books by this author which I have reviewed include Sharpe's Fortress: India 1803, 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

Fourth in the Richard Sharpe historical military fiction series, set in 1805 amidst the Battle of Trafalgar.

My Take

I do so love Richard Sharpe! Okay, okay, so I fell in love with Sean Bean in the television series first, but it only turned me on to Cornwell’s series! I swear! The series is an incredible exploration of early 19th century English culture with its mores, style, and class system particularly an inside peek into its military culture. And as much as I enjoy the television series, I adore the books much more.

Seeing the military and the battles through the eyes of Richard Sharpe brings history to life, and Cornwell does an incredible job of bringing the fear, terror, and agony of battle deep into the reader’s psyche.

It’s not just a recitation of battles but an in-depth view of life and war and how it affects one man. His dreams, his desires to rise up from his beginnings. His brutality balanced by his passion to succeed and his care for those less able to care for themselves—no matter their class.

Part of the attraction is Cornwell including secondary characters who recognize Sharpe’s abilities and ignore his station. I always love it when the underdog wins! Captain Hunt provides Sharpe with an excellent role model in how to lead men.

I can hardly wait to dive into Sharpe’s Prey, 5!

The Story

With his transfer to the 95th Rifles in place, Sharpe must get himself home to England in the course of which he experiences a wide variety of social and military adventures…with a new love in tow.

Life continues to amuse when one of Sharpe’s fellow passengers is actually a deserter and enemy whom Sharpe allows his imposture. In gratitude, and I suspect humor, this enemy takes every opportunity to invite the rough-edged Sharpe to dine at the captain’s table.

But then, suddenly, the Calliope is captured by the French, and it’s up to Mr. Sharpe to take her back.

The Characters

Ensign Richard Sharpe was an orphan who escaped hanging by enlisting in the Army where he was promptly posted off to India, and now, six years later, he’s returning to England at the invitation of the 95th Rifles, a new company being formed.

HMS Pucelle is…
…a third rate ship of French design with Captain Joel Hunt as its engaging, impetuous young captain, grateful for Sharpe’s aid with Nana Rao’s attempted fraud.

The voyage from India aboard Calliope
…which is captained by Peculier Cromwell and the significant members of the ship’s crew who include: Clouter, a runaway slave from St. Helena; Second Lieutenant Peel with the beautiful voice; Midshipman Harry Collier; Cowper, the ship’s purser; Captain Llewellyn who is in charge of the ship’s Marines; Sgt. Armstrong and Simmons are some of the Marines; First Lt. Haskell who believes the captain spoils his men; and, John Hopper, the bosun of the captain’s gig who was one of those backing his captain at Nana Rao’s.

The passengers include Lord William Hale, a member of the East India Company’s Board of Control; his wife, Lady Grace; Malachai Braithwaite, his lordship’s bum-sucking secretary; Baron and Baroness von Dornberg, a.k.a., Anthony Pohlmann, a deserter from the Hanoverian army who had commanded the losing side at Assaye; Major Dalton, retiring from the 96th; Mr. and Mrs. Fairley returning to India having made their fortune; and a barrister.

Lord Horatio Nelson commands the British fleet.

The French
Louis Montmorin captains the Revenant. Monsieur Michel Vaillard is a French spy whose capture has become Captain Hunt’s new mission.

The Cover and Title

The cover has an historical validity with its clean chase of one sailing warship after another against an orange-streaked sky. The title makes me laugh with it’s possession of Trafalgar — for it is indeed Sharpe’s Trafalgar and not the strictly historical one!

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