Book Review: Bernard Cornwell’s Sharpe’s Gold: Richard Sharpe and the Destruction of Almeida

Posted December 16, 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 Gold: Richard Sharpe and the Destruction of Almeida

Sharpe's Gold: Richard Sharpe and the Destruction of Almeida


Bernard Cornwell

historical fiction, military fiction in Paperback edition that was published by Signet on August 3, 2004 and has 256 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 Havoc: Portugal 1809, Sharpe’s Eagle, Sharpe’s Escape: Richard Sharpe and the Bussaco Campaign, 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

Ninth in the Richard Sharpe historical military fiction series. This one finds Richard a Captain during the Peninsular War in August 1810.

My Take

Just a bit of theft required to acquire the gold Wellesley needs to continue the war. London believes all is lost and is dithering about sending any money while still expecting Wellesley to pay the Spanish, the Portuguese, and take care of his own men.

I can’t blame Wellesley for taking the gold, especially since the Spanish were such tightwads and never honored their promises to feed the British Army leaving them to starve. That was just the icing on the cake for me after their lousy performance in battle, heck, before battle as well.

Cornwell works his visceral magic again making me smell the stink of the manure and blood, feel the horror of the massacred children, choke on the dust from the explosion, and moan about the blisters. It’s an odd way of expressing it, but Cornwell brings the battlefield to life. I want to be out there with a Baker rifle…but also with a bottle of Perrier in hand, please! Can you imagine how excited Sharpe and his men would be if they could get their hands on the automatic weapons of today?

It’s our first introduction to the bladder telegraph. Too bad they didn’t have more backups who could read/send the messages on them!

My only complaint about this story is that it was too short.

The Story

Sharpe and his 31 men are bored with patrolling the border between Spain and Portugal and have finally received orders to march. It’s lucky that Wellesley needs Sharpe for a special mission behind enemy lines after Sharpe, ahem, offends a provost intent on stringing up one of Sharpe’s men after his encounter with a wild chicken.

So off march Sharpe and his Rifles to Almeida to pick up Major Kearsey, the only man who knows where to find the gold intended for the Spanish government in Cadiz and knows the man who holds it, Cesar Moreno. The gold that Wellesley intends to appropriate. There’s just one problem. While Moreno holds the gold, his guerilla band has been joined by a larger one led by El Católico who is betrothed to Cesar’s daughter. A dangerous man who does not want the British Army to touch the gold. For some reason, he suspects the British intend to steal it.

Naturally, nothing can be that easy.

The Characters

Captain Richard Sharpe is now in charge of the Light Company of the South Essex regiment. His men include Lieutenant Robert Knowles; Sergeant Patrick Harper; Private Batten who moans about everything — cracks me up that Batten whines about the provost walking off with his chicken when Sharpe has just saved his bacon for having stolen it!; Daniel Hagman, a former poacher with the best eye; Parry Jenkins, a Welshman and the best fisherman amongst them; the educated Isaiah Tongue; Corporal James Kelly who recently married a woman two stones heavier than him and hasn’t stopped smiling since; Sergeant Read, a Methodist concerned for the souls of the men; Private Roach who sells his wife’s services a penny a time; and, Sergeant McGovern.

The very religious Major Kearsey of the Prince of Wales Dragoons is the exploring officer who knows where to find the gold while Captain Claud Hardy is the officer Kearsey left behind to watch it (Josefina is his wife).

Lieutenant Colonel the Honorable William Lawford is still in command of a much-improved South Essex; Major Forrest; General Sir Arthur Wellesley; Major Michael Hogan is now the head of Wellesley’s intelligence; and, Brigadier Cox is the English Commander of the garrison at Almeida. Lieutenant Ayres is the hapless provost.

Captain Lossow of the King’s German Legion respects Sharpe and his men for their capture of the eagle and he, Sergeant Helmut, and his men joyfully help Sharpe to protect the gold. Lieutenant Tom Garrard is with the Portuguese garrison at Almeida; he and Sharpe are friends from the 33rd. Fortunately, he survives the explosion.

Cesar Moreno is the leader of a small band of guerillas and has the coins near his manor in Casatejada. Both of his children, Ramon and Teresa, are involved. Teresa is engaged to El Católico, a.k.a., Colonel Joaquim Jovellanos in the Spanish Army, a vicious, brutal man with his own ideas about the gold and the power it can buy him. A man who prays over his victims as he kills them; the best swordsman in Spain.

The Cover and Title

The top third of the cover is banded in black with a thin piping of yellow followed by a band of orange. The bottom of the cover is about three-quarters of an inch of orange topped by a piping of yellow and in between it appears as if Wellesley is exhorting the troops.

The title is all about the money that Sharpe is sent to retrieve, Sharpe’s Gold.