The marvelous Cornwell returns to his greatest character, British Army rifleman Richard Sharpe, after completing his Arthurian Warlord trilogy and the Starbuck Chronicles series, about the US Civil War. In the most recent Sharpe adventure (Sharpe’s Battle, 1995), set in May 1811, Captain Sharpe fought in the savage, three-day engagement against Napoleon’s troops at the Battle of Fuentes de O§oro. It’s now eight years earlier, and Sharpe is a sergeant in India fighting beside Wellington at the Battle of Assaye, an engagement that Sir Arthur Wellesley, the Duke of Wellington, rated above his triumph over Napoleon at Waterloo. The British Army is preparing to attack India’s Mahratta Confederation when the ragingly ambitious Lt. Dodd defects to the Confederation. But is it a real defection? Great banks of gunsmoke rise as the armies battle—until, at a village called Assaye, the enemy baits its trap for Wellington and draws him into the range of an array of infantry and of 80 heavy guns on a high bluff, and besides that into a village crammed with the Rajah of Berar’s troops. By story’s end, Sharpe is Ensign Sharpe, a commissioned officer. Cornwell’s fans will dance with delight as horsemen charge and sabers swing through chaos and terror.