“Waterloo” by Bernard Cornwell Review



Author:  Bernard Cornwell

Released:  1990

Waterloo is special in a few respects in the Sharpe series. Most noticeably, it’s the only book in the series without the word “Sharpe” in the title. **Spoiler alert for world history** It’s also the culmination of the Napoleonic War between England and France which also engulfed Portugal, Spain, Prussia, Belgium and others. Waterloo takes place after a brief cease fire between France and England, with Sharpe now serving the inexperienced Prince of Orange leading Wellington’s Dutch troops. Sharpe has also settled down with a French widow, while Harper is out of the army all together and married as well.

On the positive side, Waterloo features one of the most historically accurate battles in the entire series, as Waterloo has had more written about it than any other event from the previous 19 books. Sharpe also has a side storyline that is very fun involving his wife Jane and her new suitor. The contrast between the ignorant on social graces Sharpe, and Jane’s stately but cowardly new man provides the book’s best moments. The historical note at the end also provides some great details about the events in the book happening in real life.

My biggest gripe about this book though is that it really lacks the Sharpe as central driving force narrative of the rest of the series. The battle was well written, but it was also about half of the book and lacked a lot of the character moments one expects in a Sharpe book. The deaths of several recurring characters also felt cheapened as they were no longer even featured in this book except to mention their deaths during the battle.

Harper’s role in the book is also very odd. No matter how loyal he is to Sharpe, the mechanism of getting him out of the army and then reinserting him into the chain of command for Waterloo felt unnecessary and convoluted. The book sorely missed characters like Sweet William, depending more on Sharpe and Harper’s banter which suffered from the aforementioned situation. I’m glad that Cornwell has since added another book and short story to the series, as although this capped off the war that has been the driving force for the series, something more focused on the protagonist would be a much more fitting conclusion.

3 star

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