Another episode in the adventurous life of Richard Sharpe, Cornwell's soldier of fortune in the Napoleonic era. In this book Sharpe finds himself for once at sea, as he returns from India to Britain. He sails on an Indiaman but after being captured by a French mano'war and then rescued by a British warship he finds himself caught up in the battle of Trafalgar. Two counterplots include treachery by the captain of the Indiaman, who is convinced the French will win the war and wants to make a profit by selling his ship, and a passionate love affair with the wife of a lord, which results in two murders. No shortage of action, then, and the final battle setpiece is suitably horrific.
The decision to write a naval story set in the Nelson era might be seen as a risky one; Patrick O'Brian has set an intimidatingly high standard and the Aubrey-Maturin novels are a difficult act to follow. In particular, O'Brian had an amazing ability to write what appears to be authentic early-eighteenth-century dialogue—something that Cornwell does not even attempt. Provided one keeps such comparisons out of one's mind, however, this is an entertaining enough read. If you've enjoyed other novels in the Sharpe series you won't be disappointed in this one.