Book Review: Bernard Cornwell’s Sharpe’s Havoc: Portugal 1809

Posted November 15, 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 Havoc: Portugal 1809

Sharpe's Havoc: Portugal 1809


Bernard Cornwell

historical fiction, military fiction in Paperback edition that was published by HarperCollins on 2003 and has 370 pages.

Explore it on Goodreads or Amazon.

Other books by this author which I have reviewed include Sharpe's Fortress: India 1803, Sharpe's Trafalgar: Richard Sharpe & the Battle of Trafalgar, October 21, 1805, arpe's Prey: Denmark, 1807, Sharpe's Rifles, 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

Seventh in the Richard Sharpe military fiction series revolving around a lieutenant promoted up from the ranks. The action encompasses a retreat from Soult out of Oporto just before Wellesly arrives.

My Take

It’s an interesting contrast between the “superior” upperclass blue blood values and those of scum from the gutter. Cornwell is a bit heavy-handed in it, but he certainly gets the point across beautifully. I can’t read his Sharpe series without wanting to find my own pistol!

Cornwell keeps the tension on as we skulk, scurry, and fight. I can almost smell the gunpowder, and I could swear my ears were ringing from the fury of battle. Cornwell describes the life so well that my feet ache, my body freezes, and I wallow in the comfort of a hot cup of tea.

If you’ve ever been frustrated by an idiot boss or commander, you will adore Lieutenant Sharpe!

The Story

Trapped in Oporto by duty — and Captain Hogan’s command to rescue the runaway Miss Savage — Lieutenant Sharpe again finds himself cut off from the rest of the army as the French pour into Oporto. By lucky chance, or the grace of the gods, he finds rescue and reinforcements in Lieutenant Jorge Vicente of the 18th.

Forced to remain at Vila Real de Zedes, Sharpe refuses to let his men relax. It must be the memory of a remark about the Judas tree and prescience that has Sharpe on edge, that sets the men to fortifying a ruined tower on a hill, and the only thing that warns them.

The Characters

Lieutenant Richard Sharpe is in the second battalion of the 95th Rifles, and Captain Hogan of the Royal Engineers has been delaying paperwork and snitching funds to keep Sharpe and his Rifles protecting him as they map the countryside.

The Riflemen include…
Dodd, Sergeant Patrick Harper, Williamson, Tarrant, Pendleton, Dan Hagman, Harris, Cresacre, Cooper, Sean Donnelly, and Sims.

Lieutenant Jorge Vicente and Sergeant Macedo with what remains of his 18th regiment, the second of Porto aids Sharpe and his men in escaping the city.

Lieutenant Colonel Waters, the senior exploring officer, receives Sharpe’s message about the three sunken barges. General Rowland “Daddy” Hill and General Sir Edward Paget (the battle in which he loses his right arm) battle under General Sir Arthur Wellesly to retake Oporto. There is a brief mention of Lt. Col. Shraphnel and his contribution to the war effort.

British Foreign Office
Lord Pumphrey has arrived to take over from Christopher. Lt. Colonel James Christopher has been sent out by the Foreign Office to determine if the Portuguese prefer the French or would be willing to fight with the English.

Kate Savage holds the country house and its vineyards along with the port shipping business in trust for when she marries.

The French
Captain Argenton is a French officer with information about a possible mutiny amongst the French army, if Marshal Soult intends to crown himself king. Brigadier General Vuillard is a sadistic bully with no concept of honor although a Bonapartist through and through. Major Henri Dulong is second in command of the 31st Léger, a light infantry unit and famous throughout the army for his bravery and ruthlessness…and, a rare thing in the French army, honor.

The Cover and Title

The cover is an explosive radial gradient of oranges to browns with a French cavalry charge and a gun pointing toward them.

For it’s Sharpe’s Havoc that rains down upon both the French in Oporto and Col. Christopher at the bridge.