Joyce Lagow's Reviews > Sharpe's Devil

Sharpe's Devil by Bernard Cornwell
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Apr 20, 10


No. 21, the final installment of the Richard Sharpe series.[return][return]Normally, when a series reaches a planned climax (in this case, the Battle of Waterloo), any books that come after are usually anticlimactic and have nowhere near the story-telling tension. Cornwell, however, true to form, spins a fascinating adventure tale of 5 years after the end of the Napoleonic Wars.[return][return]It s 1820, Napoleon is now in exile on St. Helena, and Sharpe, since the end of the war, has been living with Lucille on her farm in France. They receive an unexpected visitor from Sharpe s past in Spain Louise Parker, now the wife of one of Sharpe s Spanish comrades and friend, Don Blas Vivar, the Count of Matamorto, who is missing in Chile. Don Blas had been sent there as governor to put down the rebels who were fighting for Chile s independence from Spain; he disappeared shortly after.[return][return]Frustrated by what she sees as a lack of cooperation on the part of the Spanish authorities in locating Don Blas, she presses Sharpe to search for him in Chile, cost no object and with a nice, hefty fee for Sharpe. Reluctantly, believing that Don Blas is dead, Sharpe agrees. The money certainly would be useful for badly-needed repairs on the farm. And Don Blas is a friend.[return][return]Naturally, wherever Sharpe goes, there goes ex-Sgt. Patrick Harper. The two set off in a Spanish warship, the Espiritu Santo. The Espiritu Santu is headed towards Chile in hopes of fighting the admiral of the rebel fleet, the famous English naval captain, Lord Thomas Cochrane. [return][return]But on their way to Chile, they stop off, as many did, at the island of St. Helena, there to have a somewhat uncommon and puzzling interview with Napoleon himself, who asks Sharpe to carry a framed picture of himself as a memento to an admirer in Chile, an English officer. Captivated by Napoleon despite himself, Sharpe agrees.[return][return]Upon landing in Chile, Sharpe and Harper set off in what appears to be a dead-end quest for Don Blas if not to find him living, then to bring his body back to Spain for burial and for closure for his wife.[return][return]That is the background for this remarkably good tale. What makes this book even more intriguing is that the naval adventures of Lord Cochrane in the Royal Navy during the Napoleonic Wars formed much of the basis of the early books of the highly successful, naval mirror image of Cornwell s series, the Aubrey-Maturin series written by Patrick O Brian; Jack Aubrey s exploits were based directly on Cochrane s. In fact, the last book of O Brian s series more or less covers the same events. However, in the Aubrey-Maturin series, Aubrey again takes Cochrane s role in a very fictionalized version of events; Cornwell sticks to history.[return][return]It s a glorious finale to a brilliant series. Highly recommended.
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