Sharpe's Rifles, by Bernard Cornwell

Sharpe finds himself in command of a bunch of Riflemen in Spain during the Napoleonic wars. The French are advancing, and Sharpe aims to cross the country and make for a British garrison in Portugal. En route he makes an alliance with Blas Vivar, a Spanish officer, who with his troops is engaged in a mission that he hopes will culminate in a great victory for the Spanish over the French. But Napoleon himself has commanded that Vivar should be thwarted, and so the French are never far behind.

I thought I'd try this after enjoying Gallows Thief, and I was not disappointed. This was a rollicking adventure that went along at a cracking pace all the way through. I lost count of the number of times that Sharpe clashed with the French, and all the battles were exciting, and although I doubt whether they really could have sustained that amount of fighting, it didn't seem over-done. The details of military tactics were also convincing and interesting. It wasn't over-burdened with historical minutiae, but there was enough to make it feel authentic.

The plot was good too, with Vivar's pseudo-religious quest and Sharpe's coming to terms with having to lead a group of men and cope with their initial resentment. In fact I was quite impressed at how flawed Sharpe appeared - I'd assumed (not having read or seen any Sharpe stuff before) that he'd be a super-hero, but in fact he makes many mistakes and comes across as quite human.

The reader, William Gaminara, did a good job with the voices - he had to cope with English, French, Irish and Spanish accents. But I was less impressed with his narration, which felt a little bit breathless and melodramatic. Looks like I'm stuck with him for audio-books though: he seems to have the franchise on the Sharpe books. Of which I'll be reading more.

Completed : 03-Mar-2005 (audiobook, read by William Gaminara)

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