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Sharpe's Rifles (Richard Sharpe Adventures [Audio]
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Sharpe may come to personify the British Army during the Napoleonic Wars in the same way that Horatio Hornblower does the Royal Navy. Sharpe's exploits during the Peninsular Campaigns (1809-14) have been chronicled in eight prior novels; this ``prequel'' is the story of Sharpe's first command. He becomes the leader of a force of Rifles cut off behind lines during the disastrous English retreat from Spain and battles not only crack French dragoons but also the fierce winter weather and the hostility of his men. A Spanish major offers aid if Sharpe will help with his own desperate mission to guarantee a Spanish victory. A crackling adventure yarn, sure to delight Sharpe's many fans. Charles Michaud, Turner Free Lib., Randolph, Mass.

The eight previous books about Richard Sharpe, up-from-the-ranks infantry officer in H.M. Rifles, followed him from Talavera in 1809, battling Napoleon's armies across Iberia into France in early 1814. This ``prequel'' set in January 1809 has the new Lieutenant Sharpe trying to get his small English band away from the victorious French. Sharpe hopes to join the British outpost in Lisbon but is waylaid by a Spanish major of cavalry into helping him pull off a ``miracle.'' The noble Major Vivar means to raise the flag of Spain's patron saint over Santiago de Compostela, now in French hands, as a sign that Spain will not be defeated. Readers of the earlier books will enjoy the usual smooth writing and vivid, occasionally quite gory, color. The battle scenes are thrillingly realistic and we always learn something: a macho , for example, is a mule whose vocal chords have been cut so that it can't bray and warn the enemy. The subplots revolve around Sharpe's making the recalcitrant Harper a sergeant, winning the respect of his troops and, alas, losing a fair young English girl. (September)

"Frederick Davidson performs superbly. For fans of the series, Davidson's readings may be definitive."
"The charm of the Sharpe novels is that of meticulously researched stories, books with a passionate correctness as to the details of military organization... and an old-fashioned devotion to heroic conduct."
"This superbly produced, unabridged audiobook edition featured the magnificent narrative skills of Frederick Davidson who truly brings alive the thrills, dangers, and plot twists that are the hallmark of Bernard Cornwell's historical adventures."

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