In which Pierre Ducos, the French super-agent, tries to end Sharpe’s life and the series, but doesn’t succeed. Ducos does succeed in having the Marguesa imprisoned in a convent, and he almost frustrates the Duke of Wellington’s ambitious campaign that will end in the astonishing victory at Vitoria where Sharpe and the British capture the greatest treasure ‘since Alexander’s Macedonians plundered the camp of the Persian King.’ Somewhere along the line the Spanish Inquisition and a partisan leader called The Slaughterman get involved.
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His enemy is, of course, Obadiah Hakeswill. This is one of the few books in which the action is entirely fictional. Yet the book does have some basis in fact, very odd fact. By 1812 a lot of men had deserted from the British, French, Spanish and Portuguese armies and some of them, too many of them, had banded together in the border mountains where they were led by a renegade Frenchman nicknamed Pot-au-Feu. They formed a semi-military group of bandits and their enemies all agreed on one thing – they had to be crushed. Send for Sharpe.
Fleeing from her strict Puritan household and an unbearable arranged marriage, Dorcas seeks her fortune in 17th century London and falls in love with a charming aristocrat. Left an intricately wrought seal by her unknown father, she must follow the course of her father’s legacy to find her destiny.
In which Sharpe carries his sword (a 1796 pattern Heavy Cavalry sword, an ill-balanced butcher’s blade) to the extraordinary battle outside Salamanca where, to quote an enemy General, Wellington ‘destroyed forty thousand Frenchmen in forty minutes’. Sharpe also has to contend with the Marquesa de Casares el Grande y Melida Sadaba (a bit of all right), a British spymaster and, at the very end, some unbroken French squares.