Book: Sharpe's Tiger by Bernard Cornwell

Good first book in a series of historical novels about the nineteenth-century British military

Bernard Cornwell
Sharpe's Tiger: Richard Sharpe and the Siege of Seringapatam, 1799
HarperCollins, 1999 (originally published in 1997)
ISBN: 0-06-093230-9
385 pages

Sharpe's Tiger is the first book in a (so far) 22-book series of historical novels by Bernard Cornwell. The books follow Richard Sharpe, a former London guttersnipe, brawler, and thief, in his adventures in the British army in (mostly) the nineteenth century. This is the first book in the historical time-line but it's the fourteenth in the order in which they were published. I happened to start reading the series with the tenth. My opinions about that book are here.

As this book begins, it's 1799 and Richard Sharpe is a private in the British army. He's in a force that's led by General George Harris (Sharpe's colonel is Arthur Wellesley, later the Duke of Wellington) that is marching on the Indian state of Mysore. The ruler there, Tippu Sultan, has been far too friendly with the French for British tastes and the army Sharpe is with is to take the state's capital, Seringapatam.

In addition to some very impressive superiors, Sharpe has some truly vile ones. Sharpe is remarkably quick-witted, but he'll need to defeat some people from his own side in addition to doing the job he has been ordered to do.

The adventure is a good one. It isn't Mr Cornwell's fault that George MacDonald Fraser and Patrick O'Brian have also written in the genre of historical fiction about the nineteenth-century British military. Patrick O'Brian's books are brilliant and George MacDonald Fraser's are brilliant and hilarious. Judging from the two I've read, Mr Cornwell's are "only" very good.

Since we won't be getting any more from Messers O'Brian and Fraser, if you've read all of theirs or are taking a break to make them last longer, there's every reason to read and enjoy Sharpe's Tiger. It seem that it's not only Mr Fraser's Flashman who gets medals by accident.

If you can bring yourself to, skip the Historical Note at the end. I'm sure that it's from the highest of motives that Mr Cornwell details the places where he departs from history. But it does rather break the spell.

Posted: Mon - December 29, 2008 at 08:01 PM   Main   Category: