This is #3 and the last of Sharpe's adventures in India as a foot-soldier serving under General Sir Arthur Wellesley (later the Duke of Wellington). As usual Bernard Cornwell writes action-packed historical fiction that places Sharpe in the middle of some of the most famous battles in history. This time the action focuses on the Siege of Gawilghur, a virtually unconquerable fortress, where Wellesley succeeded in breaking the back of the Mahratta empire.
After saving Wellesley's life during the Battle of Assaye, Richard Sharpe has been given a battlefield commission. While it was Sharpe's greatest ambition to become an officer, he is finding himself alienated from his men who don't consider he is a real officer and from his fellow officers because he is not a proper Officer-and-a-Gentleman (Sharpe is the illegitimate orphan of a London whore who enlisted in the army to avoid prison). Despite this Sharpe starts to show the leadership in battle that will eventually make him one of the most effective officers in the regiment.
Once again Sharpe conflicts with his nemesis Sergeant Obadiah Hakeswill who has joined up with an unscrupulous officer in charge of supplies and is selling essential battlefield supplies such as horseshoes and ammunition to the local merchants. When Sharpe hunts down the merchants and defeats this black marketeering, Hakeswill hits back by capturing Sharpe and stealing the fortune in gems that he plundered from Tippoo Sultan in "Sharpe's Tiger".
The finale is historical battle action at its best with Sharpe leading the scaling the impregnable walls of Gawilghur and helping to win one of the most decisive and unexpected victories of the Indian campaign. Cornwell has taken some licence with the battle but for the most part the actions are authentic and compelling.
This is yet another fantastic historical adventure in the Richard Sharpe series which I have resolved to read in its entirety in the next twelve months.