“Sharpe’s Prey,” by Bernard Cornwell

10 Sep

“Sharpe’s Prey,” by Bernard Cornwell (304p)
Richard Sharpe and the Siege of Copenhagen, 1807

Chronologically, Sharpe’s Prey is the first Sharpe novel to be set on mainland Europe. This is the fifth in the series and is set mostly in Denmark, around eighteen months after the events of Sharpe’s Trafalgar, telling the story of the Siege of Copenhagen in 1807.

The opening chapters of Sharpe’s Prey deal with Sharpe still grief stricken over the death of Grace Hale, his love from the previous story. They were unmarried and so the lawyers of the Hale family took just about everything Sharpe owned, including his small fortune amassed in India. He’s angry, depressed and sick of the army – in 1807 Richard Sharpe even hated the 95th Rifles.

Sharpe is then drafted into a covert mission by Gen. David Baird, a friend from India, to uncover a French agent in possession of stolen British gold, who is attempting to bribe Crown Prince Frederick (the future Frederick VI) into siding Denmark and its powerful fleet with France. The British had intended to use that gold to do the same thing, as Denmark were the only other nation capable of matching Britain on the sea.

Sharpe soon uncovers the French agent and is trapped inside Copenhagen as the British mercilessly bombard the city with shells from the Royal Navy. What then follows is the usual trappings of a Sharpe novel as he attempts to escape from Copenhagen and rejoin the army. While an entertaining enough read it does have a same-same feel to it.

The main point of this novel is to be a pace gap between Sharpe’s Trafalgar and the next in the series, Sharpe’s Rifles. It wouldn’t be right for the Sharpe story to go from such a thrilling and important event as Trafalgar and then to jump straight into the gut of the action in Spain with Sharpe and his rifles. So, Sharpe’s Prey is nothing more than an intermediary between the Indian prequels and Spain.

This instalment in the Sharpe series is good enough for existing fans. If you aren’t, then start with another one as if this is your first introduction to Sharpe then it would probably turn you off it. While it isn’t poorly written and nor is the history lacking, it just lacks the compelling nature of the later Spain novels. Whether or not this is because this one is merely there to put a gap between Trafalgar and Spain is up for debate, but Sharpe’s Prey hardly offers anything new about the Sharpe character.



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