It is 1805 and Ensign Richard Sharpe, having secured a reputation as a fighting soldier in India, is on his way home to join the newly formed Green Jackets. His ship is riven with teachery and threatened by a formidable French warship, the "Revenant". An old opponent of Sharpe's is aboard his ship, and the voyage is further disturbed by the Lady Grace Hale, apparently as unreachable as she is beautiful.
Sharpe also has friends, notably a captain of the Royal Navy who is hunting the "Revenant" and who rescues Sharpe when all seems lost. When the "Revenant" encounters the combined French and Spanish fleets off Cadiz it seems that Sharpe's enemies have found safety, even as his enemies on board appear to have him trapped. Yet over the horizon is another fleet, led by Nelson, and Sharpe's revenge will come in a savage climax when the two armadas meet.