I was considering setting up a whole page on my website dedicated to writing book reviews, but since I aspire to be a writer rather than a critic it seemed distasteful to spend too much time critiquing those who I look up to so much. So I’ll just be posting reviews to my blog whenever I feel like sharing my opinion.
I wanted to start with Bernard Cornwell’s Sharpe series for a couple of reasons. I avoided the Sharpe series for a while because it’s an era that I’ve never really been too interested in reading about, the 18th and 19th century, I find the history fascinating but I always enjoyed my fantasy to be more Arthurian in nature.
After finishing Cornwell’s grail quest series I was completely hooked into his writing and decided to give the Sharpe series a run. I picked up the first book for $5 at my favourite book store, The Brookline Booksmith, and instantly fell in love. The characters are so diverse and expertly crafted and as always Cornwell is a master of setting the scene. His travels to India and his thorough research enable him to create incredibly real scenes that fill you with excitement, fear, anticipation and joy with enough fiction to completely control your attention and allow you to become fully invested in the characters and their quests.
When I find out that a book I enjoyed is part of a trilogy I get this wonderful feeling, like a TV show getting renewed (I’m looking at you Brooklyn Nine-Nine). So when I found out the Sharpe Series has 24 books I just about had a heart attack. In less than 3 months I’ve plowed through 5 of them. I’ve recently taken a break to jump back into Robin Hobb’s Farseer world, I needed some knights and dragons back in my life, but I can feel the itch in the back of my mind to put it down and find out what trouble Richard Sharpe finds himself in next.
Richard Sharpe, the series’ reluctant hero, is a brilliant character. He is simple, but with enough intelligence and common sense to set himself apart from the common soldier. He is a man of unparalleled violence and often strikes fear in his own colleagues and officers, and yet as a reader you never get the feeling that Sharpe is evil or cruel. He bends the rules enough to be interesting, but has a well calibrated moral compass that always keeps the reader on side.
The surrounding cast are a diverse group of personalities, both allies and enemies, and just by the utterance of their name on a page you can feel pride, anxiety, excitement or fury. But, just like Game of Thrones, Cornwell has a habit of killing off main characters. While this can be devastating, more than once I have put the book down and let out a huge sigh of frustration as a beloved character is yet again pierced with a bayonet or killed in some other creative way, (A dude is literally crushed to death by an elephant in one scene), it also means that every scene has added intensity, because anything could happen.
I am less than a quarter of the way through this series, but I’m already convinced it’s one of the great stories in modern writing. Cornwell is a master historian and a master story teller and the two combined make for writing that sucks you in and doesn’t let go.
I have a habit of getting over excited by things, (my friends will attest to this fact because every new movie I see is the best movie I’ve ever seen), but rest assured I judge books far more harshly than other vices in my life.
If you love fantasy, history, violence or just good writing then you will enjoy this series.
The Sharpe series follows a chronological order but they were in fact published in a different order. I’d recommend following the chronological order, I find it far more enjoyable following Sharpe’s adventures in the order they happened.
Below are the first 4 books! Click the covers to buy your own and get started.