Bernard Cornwell gives us a front-row seat at one of the turning points in the history of the British in India - the battle of Ahmednuggur where General Sir Arthur Wellesley (the future Duke of Wellington) led his small British army against the huge armies of the Indian Mahratta Confederation. Wellesley's brilliant victory at Assaye against the Indian Mahratta Confederation was the beginning of the end of the Mahratta rebellion against the British and a turning point in the Raj's growing power.
In SHARPE'S TIGER Richard Sharpe was a lowly foot-soldier who was spared a fatal flogging to help Colonel McCandless who was held captive in Seringapatam by the Tippoo Sultan. His actions in helping McCandless escape and blowing up part of Seringapatam's defensive walls gained him instant promotion to Sergeant. Sharpe now realises that his career in the Army can only really be fulfilled if he can become an officer, but he doesn't have the money to buy into that rank. His only hope is a battlefield promotion for gallantry - a dangerous and near impossible task.
Sharpe witnesses a murderous act of treachery and is left for dead when renegade English officer William Dodd and a small troop of Indians murder everyone else in cold blood in a small fort. Dodd has joined up with self proclaimed Hanoverian mercenary Colonel Pohlmann, who leads European mercenaries in the Mahratta forces from atop an elephant. When Sharpe meets Pohlmann he is offered a commission as a mercenary and wealth if he joins his forces. Sharpe considers the offer but refuses because he could never face up to going back to England in anything other than a British officer's uniform. As well Sharpe is looking for revenge against Dodd who is serving with Pohlmann.
Wellesley decides to take on impossible odds by attacking a huge army many times larger than his and wins through sheer audacity. During the battle Sharpe has to take over when Wellesley's orderly is killed by a cannon shot. This brings Sharpe into close contact during the fiercest fighting when Wellesley's horse is killed and Sharpe has to protect the life of his General.
Sharpe once again comes up against the cruel and tyrannical Sergeant Hakeswill who is determined to get Sharpe court-martialled with false evidence. In SHARPE'S TIGER Hakeswill escapes death from a cage of chained tigers. This time Sharpe has to resort to an elephant to help him defeat Hakeswill.
Cornwell seamlessly blends historical reality, characters and battles with Sharpe's adventures to give us an action-packed history lesson that puts us right in the middle of the battle which Wellesley considered to be his hardest.
I had already read a couple of books in this amazing and thrilling historical series and have made a resolution to read the rest, in order. This is the second in the series which didn't disappoint. I look forward to reading the last of the Indian trilogy to find out what happens to Sharpe during the rest of the time in India before he sets sail for England in SHARPE'S TRAFALGAR, which I have already read.