Monday, 26 October 2015

Agincourt by Bernard Cornwell: a Book Review

AzincourtAzincourt by Bernard Cornwell
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

It seems appropriate writing a review on the anniversary of the battle.

History is incredible. The similarity between Crecy and Agincourt (Azincourt as used in the title of Bernard Cornwell's book) is incredible and yet no one, especially the French knights of the time, seemed to have learned from that. The two battles are nearly 80 years apart and there are a lot of similarities. The long bow proves a dominant weapon in both battles.

In Agincourt the English, having spent far too long besieging Harfleur, decided to snub the French and march to Calais through France rather than prolong what was meant to be an invasion. The french army shadow the English army and Cornwell's description is excellent, of the starvation and illness dogging the English army's footsteps. It seems that every river crossing was blocked by the French and so the English route became far longer than necessary.

Cornwell describes the battle from the viewpoint of an English archer, Hook. The French were incensed that "rabble" were fighting knights, the gentry of the French aristocracy. Hook, is a down to earth, pragmatic character who comes across really well . As in most of Cornwell's books, the battle is not the main theme, rather it is Hook's clash with a knight in a massacre earlier in the war in Soisson. The tale involves saints and a terrible French knight who Hook knows he must face, although of course there is a twist in that tale.

Bernard Cornwell makes you feel as though you are living in through that period, which is no mean achievement for a writer and sometimes historical fiction novels fail to achieve that. I describe this issue in an earlier article World Building Tips for Authors

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