The Sharpe series (Sharpe's Regiment, Sharpe's Siege, etc.) reverts to 1809 and Sharpe's early days as an officer in French-occupied Spain. Still extremely uncomfortable with the battlefield commission given him by the future Duke of Wellington, Lt. Richard Sharpe of The Rifles becomes the officer in charge of a battered band of soldiers when his Captain falls in a vicious engagement with Napoleon's troops. Sharpe's enemies seem endless. There are the French, who greatly outnumber the fleeing British; there are Sharpe's own Rifles, who believe he is in over his head; and there are his own self-doubts. In the middle of a knock-down-drag-out fight to establish his authority with his mutinous soldiers, Sharpe gains an ally. Don Blas Vivar, an aristocratic Spanish officer, takes over the band of Rifles and brings order to the scene. Sharpe with his men were on their way to the coast, hoping to get out of the country, but Vivar has his own mission for them. He is the guardian of a mysterious sealed chest, an object the French want badly enough to send a flamboyant colonel and his detachment of dragoons to pursue, and the Rifles become part of Vivar's plan to protect the treasure. The plans become enormously complicated when the little band become protectors of a couple of Methodist missionaries and their lovely young niece. Blood gushes and daring tactics abound as Cornwell brings one more obscure corner of the Napoleonic adventure into the light. Another good Sharpe.