Disappointed With Sharpe’s Fury
By Kristin Battestella
After all my Sharpe praise, I was a bit surprised by my dislike of Bernard Cornwell’s twenty first novel in the series, Sharpe’s Fury. By spending too much time on action and silly politics in the Peninsula War in 1811,
After a prequel trilogy set in
, 2006’s Sharpe’s Fury returns the series to a gap in 1811. After being wounded by French Colonel Vandal, Sharpe has to put up with new Brigadier General Moon while recuperating in India . Sharpe and his riflemen are recruited by Cadiz Britain’s Ambassador to , Henry Wellesley, to clean up his adulterous scandal with a prostitute named Caterina. When Sharpe befriends garrison commander Sit Thomas Graham, he sets his sights on joining Graham’s campaign at Barrosa, hoping the battle will bring him close enough to take revenge on Vandal. Spain
The biggest problem I have with Sharpe’s Fury is the misleading title. There actually isn’t very much Sharpe to be had, much less a furious Sharpe. Cornwell opens with a murderous Spanish priest. Not only have we seen this type in Sharpe before, Cornwell has to begin his story twice. I enjoyed the early chapters with Sharpe trapped on a wild Spanish river with Moon, but this adventure is abandoned for undercover operations in
. We never find out who the spy at the British headquarters is, we get one sentence of the crooked Spanish Admiral’s fate (I can’t even remember his name or find it online!), and it’s silly, but the book doesn’t end with the titular words as Sharpe traditionally has. Cadiz
I enjoyed Richard Sharpe’s cloak and dagger work in
I prefer character driven novels. If I wanted to read about historical battles, I’d pick up a nonfiction Napoleonic book. We don’t have an epilogue in Sharpe’s Fury. It ends very abruptly, and Cornwell’s closing historical note admits he couldn’t resist indulging himself by having Sharpe in
. As a Hornblower fan, I find it ironic that with Sharpe’s Fury, there is now exactly twice as many Sharpe novels as there are Hornblower books. It’s as if Cornwell had contractual or writing obligations to complete Fury. If this were a first novel, I suspect Sharpe’s Fury would have a tough time finding a home or editor. Cornwell’s slipped into some very lazy writing here. “The Woman was… The soldier was…It was called Cerro de Busca, but he didn’t know that yet.” Instead of being in Richard Sharpe’s head with his thoughts and feelings and fury, I spent the last few weeks reading a historical tour guide from Cornwell. Cadiz
Normally I feel sad when finishing a Sharpe novel and can’t wait to get the next book. Fury, however, seems to have lost its audience; I bought the audio book for $3, the hardback for $5. I was kicking myself when I saw the paperback for $2 in the Borders bargain bin. I heartily enjoyed the original Sharpe books: Eagle, Gold, Sword, Company, Enemy, Honour. But Cornwell has done the series a disservice by filling in his cannon with newer tales like Escape and Fury.
Sharpe is Sharpe and I will continue to read the series until I’m done, but I read because I like Richard Sharpe and his predicaments, not to be impressed by historical writing. Sharpe’s Fury has too much Cornwell and as I was struggling to finish I kept asking, “Where’s Richard Sharpe?” It was a disappointing read, and I have to take a break before I return to reading older, proper Sharpe novels.