Sharpe's Escape (Reviews)

Mon 26 Apr 2004
Evening Standard (London)

Sharpe’s Escape is the twentieth novel in the saga, and one of the best: Cornwell has maintained a marvellously high standard throughout the series. It is true that the plots, like those of folk tales, tend towards the formulaic: Sharpe becomes involved with a beautiful girl, contends with a diabolically evil enemy – here represented by Ferragus, a Portuguese entrepreneur, whose hooby is to beat men to death with his bare hands – and, as a former ranker, is treated with aristocratic disdain by his fellow officers.

But it is the fighting that makes the books. Nowhere is hand-to-hand conflict more violent and bloody. Yet at the same time historical accuracy is not sacrificed, and the author’s descriptions of infantry and cavalry tactics – of which he has an encyclopaedic knowledge – are brilliantly lucid and compellingly exciting: as in the South Essex’s encounter with French skirmishers and cavalry outside the Torres Vedras lines in the final pages of this book.