“Sharpe” is a popular series of historical fiction novels by British award-winning author Bernard Cornwell.
The series follows the adventures of Richard Sharpe, a British soldier during the Napoleonic Wars, and is typically classified as historical fiction, adventure fiction, or military fiction.
Made into a hit TV show with Sean Bean playing Richard Sharpe, there are 24 books and short stories in the Sharpe series to enjoy. Each one follows the adventures of Richard Sharpe as he rises through the ranks during the Napoleonic Wars.
The stories are set in various locations, including England, Spain, Portugal, France, and India, and typically involve detailed battles, espionage, and personal struggles.
The 24 books have been written by Bernard Cornwell, also known for his 13 Saxon Stories, over a 41-year period from 1981 to 2022, with a new one on the way.
Sharpe has gone on to enjoy critically acclaimed success and a loyal fan base, both in the literary and television world.
The TV show, which ran from 1991 until 2008, introduced a new legion of fans to the political intrigue, battles, love interests of Sharpe, and personal conflicts of the characters.
With a new fan base, many have started reading the Sharpe books again, but are unsure of the order they should read the series.
If you’re looking to read the challenges of Sharpe and his brush with enemies, then you’re probably wondering where to begin and in what order you should read the Sharpe series.
Today, we have set out the specific order of these books so you can get started immediately.
With a cult following that spans the globe, Sharpe is one of the best selling historical fiction series of novels ever made. Each book follows the adventures of Richard Sharpe, a fictional British soldier battling it out during the Napoleonic Wars.
Set in various locations, from England to India, the series has many battles and conflicts that keep the reader engrossed in the pages.
Not only does Sharpe fight on the battlefield, but Bernard Cornwell also writes about Sharpe’s personal struggles and battles with love.
Overall, there are conflicts galore in this series, such as those with soldiers and officers, the politics of the day, and many romantic entanglements.
While the Sharpe series is a work of fiction, it is renowned for its meticulous research and attention to historical detail.
Author Bernard Cornwell has stated that he strives for historical accuracy in his writing, and works closely with historical experts to ensure that the events, settings, and characters are as authentic as possible.
That being said, the series is still a work of fiction, and Cornwell occasionally takes creative liberties with certain details or characters to serve the story. Additionally, some historical inaccuracies have been pointed out by historians and military experts.
It is, however, widely respected for its commitment to authenticity and its vivid portrayal of life during the Napoleonic Wars.
For instance, it covers various historical events, including major battles such as Waterloo and Trafalgar, as well as lesser-known skirmishes and sieges. Even the military tactics in the books are considered accurate by historians.
Gripping with suspenseful plots, the Sharpe series is a thrilling and immersive depiction of life as a soldier during the Napoleonic Wars and has become a beloved classic of historical fiction. With that in mind, let’s take a look at the order of the books here!
Sharpe Books In Order
This book is, in fact, a prequel to the Sharpe series. Sharpe’s Tiger: The Siege of Seringapatam, 1799 tells the tales of Sharpe and his experiences in India.
In this novel, Sharpe is a young private in India and this story follows his battalion as they prepare to embark on the battle of Seringapatam.
This book introduces us to Sharpe, the soldier, hero, and rogue for the first time and it’s not long before we find out about his brutal, brave courage that is a theme throughout each book.
- Gripping storyline with societal and military historical accuracies
- The one-dimensional portrayal of the British and Indians (British are heroes and Indians are villainous)
Sharpe’s Triumph: Richard Sharpe and the Battle of Assaye, September 1803 is the second book in the series. This focuses on Sergeant Richard Sharpe after he is witness to an English officer committing a murderous act of treachery.
The officer defected from the East India Company and joined a mercenary army with the Indian Mahratta Confederation.
- Fantastic battle scenes that engross the reader
- Graphic descriptions of violence that may upset some readers
The third book in the Sharpe series sees Sharpe lead a small group of soldiers to capture a fortress in the Portuguese city of Coimbra.
The book takes place in 1810, during the Peninsular War, and follows Sharpe as he navigates the dangerous and complex politics of the region, fights against French and Spanish soldiers, and tries to maintain his leadership over a diverse group of soldiers with competing interests and backgrounds.
We are also introduced to one of Sharpe’s many love interests.
- Detailed and accurate depictions of the politics and culture of the time
- The simplistic portrayal of Portuguese characters
In Bernard Cornwell’s fourth Sharpe book, Sharpe’s Trafalgar: Richard Sharpe and the Battle of Trafalgar, October 21, 1805, we are transported to one of the most significant battles in history between the British and French fleets.
This volume follows Sharpe as he embarks on a mission to retrieve a young woman who has been taken captive by a French ship. Along the way, he becomes embroiled in a naval battle, fighting alongside the British forces under Admiral Horatio Nelson.
- In-depth depiction of the famous battle of Trafalgar
- Although set in a battle, some readers may yearn for a greater exploration of naval warfare in the book
Set in 1807, Sharpe’s Prey is the fifth book in the vast series. This time, Sharpe is sent on a mission to capture a French gunboat in South America.
The storyline is packed with action and adventure, with plenty of battles, chases, and other exhilarating moments to keep the reader engaged.
- Faster paced than some previous Sharpe novels to keep you engaged
- Similar plot and dynamics to previous Sharpe books that may be repetitive to some readers
It’s 1809 and Napoleon’s army has made progress as it sweeps across Spain. The 95th Rifles, a regiment in the British army are demoralized and the men become distrustful as the war rages on.
Lieutenant Richard Sharpe is the new commander of this regiment and we follow him and his men as he attempts to lead them to safety across enemy-riddled Spanish mountains.
- Strong character development as we find out more about the complexity of their emotions in the heat of battle
- Limited exploration of Spanish culture and society, even though it is set in Spain
This seventh Sharpe novel sees Lieutenant Richard Sharpe fighting the brutal, bloodthirsty Napoleonic armies. The French aim to take over the Iberian Peninsula but Sharpe and his men must stand their ground and defeat their enemy.
As Napoleón advances swiftly through Northern Portugal, a small group of British troops in Lisbon will either fight or sail back to England. When Sharpe is involved, I think we all know what they will do.
- Lots of action and adventure with thrilling moments that Sharpe fans will love
- Somewhat limited exploration of social themes prevalent during the time
By this eighth volume in the series, we have concluded that Sharpe is a soldier and a hero and the man anyone would want by their side in battle.
And, in Sharpe’s Eagle, his peers have noticed his superior military skills and have therefore promoted him to Captain. This book is set in July 1809 and Sharpe comes into conflict with an inept colonel who soon becomes Sharpe’s enemy.
Sharpe knows he must fight for his future as a soldier and for the honor of his regiment as he and his men prepare for the battle of Talavera. It is one of the first glimpses of Sharpe’s vulnerability in the hands of his superiors.
- Introduces the reader to the vulnerable side of Sharpe, rather than the rogue we have come to know
- Highly complex plot with many twists and turns that may confuse the reader at times
Sharpe’s Gold takes us into the troubling times of the British army’s struggles as Wellington is outnumbered and the army is essentially bankrupt. To avoid collapsing to defeat, the men’s only hope is to find a hidden cache of Portuguese gold.
Of course, only Captain Sharpe is able to steal it with the aid of General Wellington on a secret mission. However, this means going against their own men.
What proceeds is a tense journey with run-ins with ruthless Spanish guerrillas led by El Católico. Hold your breath for this one!
- Thrilling moments throughout to keep you on the edge of your seat
- Graphic depictions of violence and gore that may not be suitable for all readers
First published in 2004 (remember, this order is chronological, not when the volumes were published), Sharpe’s Escape is set in 1810. Napoleon and his army are determined to take control of Portugal and this means pushing the British army back out to sea.
For this, Napoleon sends his largest and most fierce army yet across the Spanish frontier to defeat the British. Two obstacles stand in Napoleon’s way, however: a wasteland with little to no food and a rogue known as Captain Richard Sharpe.
- Good exploration of themes related to war, politics, and culture of the time
- French characters could have more complexity and nuance
Book eleven in chronological order, and one of the latest published by Cornwell, Sharpe’s Fury is set in 1811 with the French appearing to have won their war with Spain and Portugal.
Most of Spain has been captured, apart from Cadiz, a city wrapped by the sea. Captain Richard Sharpe finds himself in Cadiz as it is under French siege after an attack on a French-held bridge goes very wrong.
Tales of political rivalries, warfare, and love drive this volume of Sharpe as the reader is taken on a journey of Sharpe’s self-discovery and brush with enemies.
- Excellent character development with complex backstories
- Sharpe’s link to the battle seems a little tenuous
Set during the Peninsular War in Spain in 1811, Sharpe’s Battle sees Sharpe and his men under siege by an elite French unit in a Portuguese fort. Sharpe’s unit suffers heavy losses and the army’s high command blames Sharpe for this disaster.
Sharpe’s military career seems to lie in ruins but he can redeem himself on the battlefield. Against many French troops, Sharpe leads his men into battle with his honor at stake down the narrow streets of Fuentes de Oñoro.
- Interesting insight into the struggles Sharpe goes through in his military career showing low points
- A limited focus on the battle of Fuentes de Oñoro with the action spread too thin across various locations
In Sharpe’s Company, Sharpe needs to capture a fortress to stem the ever-growing tide of Napoleon’s army. But, this is not any old fortress as Sharpe’s own wife and infant daughter are trapped inside.
Sharpe must also contend with a fellow officer who has set out to try and destroy Sharpe’s career.
Rallying his men, Sharpe leads them to the fortress whilst he and his trusty right-hand man, fight their way through to reach Sharpe’s wife and daughter coming face to face with Hakeswill, the man who holds them hostage.
- Tense plot with many unexpected moments to keep you engrossed
- Long stretches with little to no action which can be slow-paced for Sharpe fans
Fourteenth in the Sharpe series, Sharpe’s Sword is set during the summer campaign of 1812 which included the Battle of Salamanca.
Both Sharpe and Sergeant Harper find themselves entangled in a war of spies, all whilst trying to find Colonel Phillipe Leroux, a very dangerous and sadistic man. This volume is tense throughout as the most important British spy’s life is in danger.
Therefore, Sharpe is given the responsibility of keeping El Mirador safe but only if he can capture the dangerous Colonel.
- Tales of espionage and untrustworthy characters bring this story to life
- Not enough depth is given to some secondary characters
The fifteenth book, chronologically speaking, in the Sharpe series, Sharpe’s Enemy introduces us to a band of vicious renegades led by Sharpe’s ruthless enemy, Obadiah Hakeswill.
He has captured a group of French and British women and is keeping them hostage on a mountain pass that is strategically hard to penetrate.
Sharpe and his men are outnumbered and attacked from two sides, leaving him with two options: stand his ground or die trying to.
- Historical accuracy gives readers a vivid and realistic portrayal of the time period
- Pages and pages of historical jargon and military terminology that may be confusing or off-putting to some readers
Sharpe’s Honor is the sixteenth in the series and tells the story of an unfinished duel, a beautiful prostitute’s treachery, and a midnight murder. Together, these lead to the imprisonment of Sharpe.
For the reader, the question is “is this it for Sharpe?” By this time in the series, we can be confident that he will escape, but how and when? I love this book as Sharpe is caught in a complicated web of political intrigue.
Yes, he is a highly decorated and experienced military figure but that has not prepared him for such politics. This well-respected man (by most) has now become a fugitive, on the run from both his enemies and allies.
- A combination of battles, personal drama, and political intrigue make this a well-rounded and satisfying read
- Too much political jargon for some readers who prefer the military side of Sharpe
Sharpe’s Regiment focuses on the South Essex Regiment which requires new recruits. Sharpe is granted permission to return to England to find and recruit a second battalion for the regiment.
Upon arriving at the battalion headquarters, Sharpe, Harper, Harry Price, and Peter D’Alembord only come across wounded men. However, they are told that recruiting parties have been witnessed, but where they go is a mystery.
Sharpe’s right-hand man has more focus on his character in this volume as he is hunted for trying to prevent a would-be deserter from being murdered. It is up to Sharpe to rescue his faithful friend.
- Excellent character development and more focus on secondary characters, rather than just Sharpe
- Complex military terms and phrases can be confusing
Although not an actual volume in the Sharpe series, Sharpe’s Christmas slots in, chronologically speaking, as the eighteenth story by Cornwell. Originally, this was a short story written for the Daily Mail, a British newspaper.
Initially, it was 12,000 words long, but Cornwell rewrote it later on and expanded it, bound with Sharpe’s Ransom, another Daily Mail short story. This is set in 1813 and sees the return of Colonel Gudin, a figure who served with Sharpe in India.
Sharpe discovers himself in a precarious position with enemies on either side of him. It’s a fight for survival once again.
- We get to see a slightly softer side to Sharpe’s character
- Lacking some of the roughness that Sharpe fans have come to love about Sharpe and his tactics
A nineteenth mission for Sharpe may seem simple, but his old enemy, Pierre Ducos, has other plans. Sharpe and his men are to capture a small French coastal fort that is unguarded. Simple!
Then, they need to destroy Napoleon’s supply lines and head back out across the sea. But, Pierre Ducos is waiting for Sharpe with his battalion of French soldiers.
Oh, and alongside him is a brutal commanding general whose hobby is to keep the scalps of his enemies after killing them as trophies. Sharpe devises a daring plan to breach the walls of the fortress and give the allied forces a chance to fight back.
But, as always, he and his men face various deadly challenges and Sharpe gets caught up with a beautiful Spanish woman. Everything you want from a Sharpe novel.
- This volume has everything that Sharpe fans like, including warfare, military tactics, personal struggles, tensions between the British and Spanish, and love interests
- Some very violent moments can be too gory for some readers
Sharpe’s Revenge takes place in 1814 and it seems that Napoleon is on the verge of being defeated. But, first, Toulouse, a well-protected city, needs to be conquered.
The battle that ensues ends up being one of the bloodiest of the Peninsula Wars and Sharpe, although tired and weaker from the war, must gather every ounce of strength he has left to lead his troops to victory and win the war.
There is another battle that is going on in Sharpe’s life, too. Sharpe is accused of stealing Napoleon’s treasure so must escape a British military court with only his resolve to protect his unflinching honor.
Again, allies and enemies are out to get Sharpe, but will he get his revenge? Read and find out!
- Very rich in historical detail with an immersive portrayal of the time period
- Quite a lot of dense prose which can be confusing for readers not up to speed with historical or military term
It all comes to a head in Sharpe’s Waterloo. Set in 1815, Napoleon, The Duke of Wellington, and the Prince of Orange meet on the battlefield. No big deal, right? Well, not if you don’t think the fate of Europe isn’t important!
Napoleon leads an immense French army towards Brussels with Britain and their allies also converging on the city. As for Sharpe, he leaves his Normandy farm to rejoin the army.
He is promoted to Lieutenant Colonel of a Dutch-Belgian cavalry regiment and acts as a staff officer to the Prince of Orange. Patrick Harper, now a civilian, is also in Belgium but trading horses.
He resumes his place as Sharpe’s right-hand man in what is regarded as the final chapter of the original Sharpe series.
- Includes some important, famous figures of history, giving the reader an insight into how they may have been
- So much going on with many characters and stories, with a lot of action, making the book quite dizzy to read
The latest novel written and published by Bernard Cornwell, Sharpe’s Assassin, occurs immediately after the Battle of Waterloo, but during the occupation of Paris.
Now the dust has settled after Waterloo, the Duke of Wellington requires a favor from Sharpe. As we know from Sharpe’s stories, the end of one war tends to mean the beginning of another.
Napoleon may have been defeated but a new group of revolutionaries are out for revenge, and Sharpe needs to stop them.
Soon, lines between friends and enemies start to blur and the search for a lethal assassin is just one of the many things Sharpe must do.
- The latest in the Sharpe series gives readers a rare new story
- Very familiar formula with less action than usual
Sharpe’s Devil takes place five years after the Battle of Waterloo. Sharpe’s life is a far cry from the earlier books as he has settled down to a peaceful retirement in Normandy. But, it wouldn’t be a Sharpe book without this blissful serenity being shattered.
Sharpe’s old friend, Don Blas Vivar, goes missing in Chile and his wife asks Sharpe to get to the bottom of this mysterious disappearance. With the help of Patrick Harper, they head to Chile but are met with Napoleon as they navigate through St. Helena.
Both men believe they are bound to Chile only to find the corpse of their old friend, but what awaits them is far more dangerous than they could have imagined.
- Full of adventures and clever manipulation by the Spanish that keep you thinking
- Don Blas’ character is a little underdeveloped with little to no interaction. Instead, he seems to be a goal to achieve and nothing more
Other Sharpe Short Stories
This short story takes place between Sharpe’s Sword and Sharpe’s Enemy during the summer of 1812. Cornwell originally wrote this to give away with every copy of Sharpe’s fortress. Therefore, just a few thousand copies were ever published.
But Cornwell set out to rewrite the short story and then republished it years later. In Sharpe’s Skirmish, Sharpe is on light duty after the frenzied events of Sharpe’s Sword.
He is left with guarding a Commissary Officer in a Spanish fort that also houses some captured French muskets. However, the French are planning to raid the fort as they believe it will be lightly guarded. Sharpe, yet again, stands in their way.
The Sharpe series is truly colossal with thousands upon thousands of pages of Richard Sharpe’s personal life, his battles on and off the battlefield, and the intricacies of society and the military of the time.
If you’re a fan of historical fiction novels, Sharpe novels are certainly worth checking out, as is the acclaimed TV show.
Frequently Asked Questions
What Is The Time Difference Between The First And Last Sharpe Novels?
As you now know, the chronological order of the Sharpe series is different from the publication order. The series begins with “Sharpe’s Tiger” (set in 1799) and ends with “Sharpe’s Devil” (set in 1820-21).
Are The Sharpe Books Historically Accurate?
While the Sharpe books are fictional, Bernard Cornwell has researched the history and events of the Napoleonic Wars extensively.
The books are generally considered to be somewhat historically accurate in terms of their portrayal of the battles, tactics, and military life of the time. But, the stories themselves are all fictional.
Is Sharpe Based On Anyone?
Although a fictional character and not based on any one person in particular, Bernard Cornwell has stated that he was inspired by the stories and experiences of real-life soldiers who fought in the Napoleonic Wars, such as Rifleman Benjamin Harris of the 95th Rifles.