Sharpe's Fortress (Sharpe Series #3)

Sharpe's Fortress (Sharpe Series #3)

4.6 56
by Bernard Cornwell

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"The greatest writer of historical adventures today."
Washington Post

Critically acclaimed, perennial New York Times bestselling author Bernard Cornwell (Agincourt, The Fort, the Saxon Tales) makes real history come alive in his breathtaking historical fiction. Praised as "the direct heir to Patrick O'Brian"

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"The greatest writer of historical adventures today."
Washington Post

Critically acclaimed, perennial New York Times bestselling author Bernard Cornwell (Agincourt, The Fort, the Saxon Tales) makes real history come alive in his breathtaking historical fiction. Praised as "the direct heir to Patrick O'Brian" (Agincourt, The Fort), Cornwell has brilliantly captured the fury, chaos, and excitement of battle as few writers have ever done—perhaps most vividly in his phenomenally popular novels following the illustrious military career of British Army officer Richard Sharpe during the late 18th and early 19th centuries. In Sharpe's Fortress, Ensign Sharpe's adventures in India reach a grand finale at the Siege of Gawilghur during the Maharatta War in December 1803, as Cornwell's hero uncovers a foul treason and seeks a righteous revenge. Perhaps the San Francisco Chronicle said it best: "If only all history lessons could be as vibrant."

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Editorial Reviews

The direct heir to Patrick O'Brian.
People Magazine
Starring British officer Richard Sharpe (a kind of Indiana Jones, this novel, the 16th in a series, is a zippy joyride.
Wall Street Journal
Page-turners [that] fan clubs all over the world are devoted to.
Starring British officer Richard Sharpe (a kind of Indiana Jones, this novel, the 16th in a series, is a zippy joyride. Worth a look.
San Francisco Chronicle
Tom Clancy could pick up a pointer or two from Bernard Cornwell . . . Cornwell's blending of the fictional Sharpe with historical figures and actual battles gives the narrative a stunning sense of realism . . . If only all history lessons could be as vibrant.
Boston Globe
Excellently entertaining. If you love historical drama . . . then look no further.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Already a bestseller in the U.K., this 16th volume chronicling the heroic escapades of Richard Sharpe, a British soldier with Gen. Sir Arthur Wellesley (later the duke of Wellington), resumes the marathon historical narrative in India during the final battle of the Mahratta War of 1803. With an amorous French widow waiting for him back in Seringapatam, and carrying a fortune in jewels he has liberated from the Tippoo sultan, Ensign SharpeDnewly promoted from sergeantDis struggling to make a successful transition to officer responsibilities. Led by the murderous English turncoat Col. William Dodd, the Mahratta army withdraws to the impregnable mountaintop fortress of Gawilghur, where Dodd intends to defeat Wellesley and perpetrate a final treachery that will make him ruler of all India. Assigned to the service of Captain Torrance to assist with the supply train, Sharpe uncovers a large cache of misappropriated military supplies. The captain realizes that Sharpe suspects him and his sergeant, Obadiah Hakeswill, Sharpe's old nemesis, of stealing the supplies. He hands Sharpe over to Hakeswill, who takes his jewels and turns Sharpe over to a bandit leader to be killedDbut all is not lost. Resplendent with color and action, the stirring saga overwhelms the senses with the flash of sabers and the gore and din of battle. True to his adoring readers, Cornwell leaves no treachery unpunished as Sharpe again proves his mettle. (Nov.) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
After marching his hard-fighting British rifleman Richard Sharpe through innumerable campaigns in the Napoleonic wars and beyond, Cornwell uses this latest novel to revisit a turning point in Sharpe's early career. Sharpe's Fortress is set in British India in late 1803, immediately after Arthur Wellesley (the future Wellington) has made Sharpe an officer. Typical of Cornwell's books, it quickly places the long-suffering hero in a nasty crisis and never lets up. Sharpe must fight two wars: one against the Mahratta, who defy British rule from their apparently impregnable mountaintop stronghold, the other against the class-conscious and narrow-minded British officers who won't accept an officer up from the ranks. One of the most intense and engaging Sharpe stories, this novel gains much from William Gaminara's strong reading. A can't-miss addition to libraries with patrons who appreciate well-crafted historical fiction.--R. Kent Rasmussen, Thousand Oaks, CA Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.\
Kirkus Reviews
Cape Cod resident Cornwell returns to his Napoleonic Wars series about Her Majesty's rifleman Richard Sharpe. Now an ensign, Sharpe in prequel Napoleonic novels set in India, moves to the Siege of Gawilghur, December 1803, and defends the Crown against the treasonous Sergeant Obidiah Hakeswill and the renegade Englishman William Dodd. Sharpe fans may well recall his joining with Sir Arthur Wellesley (later Duke of Wellington) at the Battle of Assaye in India, a battle Wellington in later years rated above his defeat of Napoleon at Waterloo, in Sharpe's Triumph (1999). Now, the Mahattra fortress of Gawilghur cannot be breached, despite all of Wellington's endurance against savage cannonades from the bastion. Who will find the sneaky way around the fortress and across the Inner Fort's wall? Do you need his initials? Meanwhile, we're told that the latest installment in the series, Sharpe's Trafalgar (not yet published here), hit the top of every major bestseller list in England and remained #1 for 12 weeks, surpassing Grisham's The Brethren. Twelve Sharpe novels have been filmed by PBS. HarperCollins plans a big relaunch of the series. Fabulous stuff.

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Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
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Sharpe Series , #3
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Chapter One

Richard Sharpe wanted to be a good officer. He truly did. He wanted it above all other things, but somehow it was just too difficult, like trying to light a tinderbox in a rain-filled wind. Either the men disliked him, or they ignored him, or they were overfamiliar and he was unsure how to cope with any of the three attitudes, while the battalion's other officers plain disapproved of him. You -can put a racing saddle on a carthorse, Captain Urquhart had said one night in the ragged tent which passed for the officers' mess, but that don't make the beast quick. He had not been talking about Sharpe, not directly, but all the other officers glanced at him.

The battalion had stopped in the middle of nowhere. It was hot as hell and no wind alleviated the sodden heat. They were surrounded by tall crops that hid everything except the sky. A cannon fired somewhere to the north, but Sharpe had no way of knowing whether it was a British gun or an enemy cannon.

A dry ditch ran through the tall crops and the men of the company sat on the ditch lip as they waited for orders. One or two lay back and slept with their mouths wide open while Sergeant Colquhoun leafed through his tattered Bible. The Sergeant was short-sighted, so had to hold the book very close to his nose from which drops of sweat fell onto the pages. Usually the Sergeant read quietly, mouthing the words and sometimes frowning when he came across a difficult name, but today he was just slowly turning the pages with a wetted finger.

"Looking for inspiration, Sergeant?" Sharpe asked.

"I am not, sir," Colquhoun answered respectfully, but somehow managed to convey that the questionwas still impertinent. He dabbed a finger on his tongue and carefully turned another page.

So much for that bloody conversation, Sharpe thought. Somewhere ahead, beyond the tall plants that grew higher than a man, another cannon fired. The discharge was muffled by the thick stems. A horse neighed, but Sharpe could not see the beast. He could see nothing through the high crops.

"Are you going to read us a story, Sergeant?" Corporal McCallum asked. He spoke in English instead of Gaelic, which meant that he wanted Sharpe to hear.

"I am not, John. I am not."

"Go on, Sergeant," McCallum said. "Read us one of those dirty tales about tits."

The men laughed, glancing at Sharpe to see if he was offended. One of the sleeping men jerked awake and looked about him, startled, then muttered a curse, slapped at a fly and lay back. The other soldiers of the company dangled their boots toward the ditch's crazed mud bed that was decorated with a filigree of dried green scum. A dead lizard lay in one of the dry fissures. Sharpe wondered how the carrion birds had missed it.

"The laughter of fools, John McCallum," Sergeant Colquhoun said, "is like the crackling of thorns under the pot."

"Away with you, Sergeant!" McCallum said. "I heard it in the kirk once, when I was a wee kid, all about a woman whose tits were like bunches of grapes." McCallum twisted to look at Sharpe. "Have you ever seen tits like grapes, Mr. Sharpe?"

"I never met your mother, Corporal," Sharpe said.

The men laughed again. McCallum scowled. Sergeant Colquhoun lowered his Bible and peered at the Corporal. "The Song of Solomon, John McCallum," Colquhoun said, "likens a woman's bosom to clusters of grapes, and I have no doubt it refers to the garments that modest women wore in the Holy Land. Perhaps their bodices possessed balls of knotted wool as decoration? I cannot see it is a matter for your merriment." Another cannon fired, and this time a round shot whipped through the tall plants close to the ditch. The stems twitched violently, discharging a cloud of dust and small birds into the cloudless sky. The birds flew about in panic for a few seconds, then returned to the swaying seedheads.

"I knew a woman who had lumpy tits," Private Hollister said. He was a dark-jawed, violent man who spoke rarely. "Lumpy like a coal sack, they were." He frowned at the memory, then shook his head. "She died."

"This conversation is not seemly," Colquhoun said quietly, and the men shrugged and fell silent.

Sharpe wanted to ask the Sergeant about the clusters of grapes, but he knew such an inquiry would only cause ribaldry among the men and, as an officer, Sharpe could not risk being made to look a fool. All the same, it sounded odd to him. Why would anyone say a woman had tits like a bunch of grapes? Grapes made him think of grapeshot and he wondered if the bastards up ahead were equipped with canister. Well, of course they were, but there was no point in wasting canister on a field of bulrushes. Were they bulrushes? It seemed a strange thing for a farmer to grow, but India was full of oddities. There were naked sods who claimed to be holy men, snake-charmers who whistled up hooded horrors, dancing bears draped in tinkling bells, and contortionists draped in bugger all, a right bloody circus. And the clowns ahead would have canister. They would wait till they saw the redcoats, then load up the tin cans that burst like duckshot from the gun barrels. For what we are about to receive among the bulrushes, Sharpe thought, may the Lord make us truly thankful.

"I've found it," Colquhoun said gravely.

"Found what?" Sharpe asked.

"I was fairly sure in my mind, sir, that the good book mentioned millet. And so it does. Ezekiel, the fourth chapter and the ninth verse." The Sergeant held the book close to his eyes, squinting at the text. He had a round face, afflicted with wens, like a suet pudding studded with currants. "'Take thou also unto thee wheat, and barley,"' he read laboriously, "'and beans, and lentils, and millet, and fitches, and put them in one vessel, and make thee bread thereof."' Colquhoun carefully closed his Bible, wrapped it in a scrap of tarred canvas and stowed it in his pouch. "It pleases me, sir," he explained, "if I can find everyday things in the scriptures. I like to see things, sir, and imagine my Lord and Savior seeing the selfsame things."

Sharpe's Fortress. Copyright © by Bernard Cornwell. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

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What People are saying about this

Stephen King
Consistently exciting...these are great novels.

Meet the Author

BERNARD CORNWELL is the author of the acclaimed New York Times bestselling Saxon Tales series, which includes The Last Kingdom, The Pale Horseman, Lords of the North, Sword Song, The Burning Land, Death of Kings, The Pagan Lord, and, most recently, The Empty Throne, and which serves as the basis for the BBC America series The Last Kingdom. He lives with his wife on Cape Cod and in Charleston, South Carolina.

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