Book Review: Bernard Cornwell’s Sharpe’s Company

Posted January 6, 2012 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 Company

Sharpe's Company


Bernard Cornwell

action & adventure, history, military that was published by Penguin on April 1, 2001 and has 288 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 Gold: Richard Sharpe and the Destruction of Almeida, Sharpe's Battle: Richard Sharpe and the Battle of Fuentes de Oñoro, 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

Thirteenth in the Richard Sharpe military fiction series about an army captain who jumped up from the ranks and will do anything to keep his promotion.

My Take

It’s amazing what power will do to a person, to a group. The Horse Guards in London thought it was more important to cater to men with money than with actually winning a war. Can you imagine what the English could have accomplished if they had promoted on merit instead of allowing men to buy their way into the rank they desired? As Cornwell points out, if the French had used the British system, there would never have been a Napoleon…ooh, wait, maybe that’s a bad example… Still, the point remains the same.

How Windham can stand there and tell Sharpe that he has to give his Company up to Rymer because “He’s purchased it, used his own money. You can see his rights…” Oh, yeah, instead of earning the rank and gaining experience while surviving combat, Rymer’s money automatically makes him a natural and effective leader. Uh-huh. Let me out now!!!

We do have to give Windham credit for realizing that frame as quickly as he does. Not that it does much good for Harper’s back. Still. Then Hogan takes a hand. At least Sharpe will have a chance at battle and get him away from the supply wagons, baggage train, and wives’ inspections!

What is it with all these officers telling Sharpe he doesn’t need the glory of leading a Forlorn Hope? His commanding colonel should just be jumping for joy at the thought of a good chance of getting rid of Sharpe. Wellington. Well, we know why Wellington won’t let Sharpe lead one and Hogan doesn’t want him to; he appreciates Sharpe’s abilities and, hoo boy, ain’t he mad when he finds out Sharpe’s captaincy was gutted! They all think that Sharpe will win promotion on the battlefield with all the potential dead captains. If that’s true, then why isn’t Sharpe a captain for real now??

This is the first story in which Richard starts to hanker after a Forlorn Hope. It would cement his promotion and be a test for himself.

As Cornwell notes at the end, there is a real-life romance at the sack of Badajoz when Lieutenant Harry Smith rescued and married Juana Maria de los Dolores de Leon. A love story that has found its way into many romances and history books.

The Story

It’s at the assault on Ciudad Rodrigo where Sharpe’s luck takes a sharp turn down, for Colonel Lawford is hit and the South Essex requires a new Colonel. One who won’t be on Sharpe’s side.

There’s even a new captain along with the news that Sharpe’s gazette as captain was refused. So Sharpe is back to being a lieutenant. Without a company. Instead his new colonel puts him in charge of baggage and the regiment’s women.

If that isn’t bad enough, Hakeswill is already up to his old tricks with a frame that takes a bit too long to be revealed to Colonel Windham, and Teresa is trapped in Badajoz, at risk from Hakeswill as well.

The Characters

Captain Richard Sharpe is a natural soldier and fearsome in battle for time slows down when Sharpe is in a battle rage and none can stand before him.

His men include Sergeant Patrick Harper, an Ulsterman from Donegal; Sergeant Read is a Methodist and worries about the men’s souls; Lieutenant Harry Price is nice enough — his father bought him his commission to get him away from the ladies and the bottle or at least out of sight of Hampshire; Daniel Hagman, the oldest man in the regiment and a former poacher from Cheshire; Roach; Parry Jenkins; Gutteridge; Cooper; Harris, a former schoolteacher; Perkins, the youngest; Green; Horrell; McDonald; Cresacre; Smith; Sergeant Latimer; Peters; Clayton has a wife Sally with pretty tits; and, Corporal Jackson. Sergeant Obadiah Hakeswill joins the South Essex with its new officers: Colonel Brian Windham, an energetic hunter with a dislike of jumped-up officers (and a very moralistic wife); Major Jack Collett; Captain Rymer is slated to replace Sharpe — he’s one of us, don’t ‘cha know although it’s too bad he’s so indecisive in battle; and, Ensign William Matthews.

Teresa Moreno, a.k.a., La Ajuga (The Needle), comes back into Richard’s life with a little something extra named Antonia and earns the enmity of Hakeswill. In the sack of Badajoz, Sharpe and Harper rescue Isabella from a rape.

Lieutenant Colonel the Honorable William Lawford is only here briefly. Major Forrest and Captain Leroy are still here with the South Essex.

Major Michael Hogan is the head of Wellington’s Intelligence services and Sharpe’s friend. Lieutenant Robert Knowles is now a captain in a Fusilier Battalion; he leads by thinking of what Sharpe would do. General Black Bob Crauford bites it. Colonel Fletcher is the Chief Engineer.

Arthur Wellesley is now Viscount Wellington and the General Marshal of Portugal’s army and commander of the British forces in Portugal.

The Cover and Title

This must be the ugliest cover in the series. A black banner proclaims the author while the rest is a cream background with pen-and-ink sketches of a line of soldiers with fixed bayonets charging right behind Captain Sharpe with his sword in hand. There’s a pastel [the media, not the colors] rendering in color of the smoke and fire of battle behind them.

The title rejoices in Sharpe’s Company when he regains his men.