Bernard Cornwell's AZINCOURT
Book review by Dennis D. McDonald
In the U.S. edition it’s spelled “Agincourt.”
Nick Hook is an archer in Henry V’s army. The events in this novel go from 1413 to 1415 and follow Hook as Henry’s army invades France to assert his claim to the French throne.
Hook is not a nobleman, he’s a small town boy, a peasant, and he regularly suffers — and metes out — the indignities of his low position. But he’s raised from childhood to learn the longbow — and Henry needs archers.
How Nick finds himself in the army, how his family’s feud with another local family follows him to France, and how both the good and the evil of the Church at that time assault him or help him, all culminate on the killing fields of Azincourt in France. There Henry’s army wins an incredible victory based on luck, cunning strategy — and archery.
Real life events are intertwined with the novel and the author provides an afterword where he describes where he has strayed from history. We get a lot of detail about food, armor, weapons, arrows, armor, siege warfare, mud, and the carnage of medieval warfare.
We also have a variety of characters included who don’t always come off as convincing or real. The author’s strong suit is not characterization, it’s telling a story with a lot of detail and action as realistically as possible. He succeeds in that, even though his writing style is not what I would call colorful or artistic. His meat-and-potatoes writing style gets the job done in a clear and action oriented fashion.
Overall I enjoyed this novel greatly even through the scenes of warfare tend to drag on. But the reality and grittiness of an exceptionally famous military campaign from the perspective of a footsoldier is told splendidly.
Review copyright (c) 2011 by Dennis D. McDonald