Author: Bernard Cornwell
Publication: 2009 by HarperCollins
Young Nicholas Hook is dogged by a cursed past—haunted by what he has failed to do and banished for what he has done. A wanted man in England, he is driven to fight as a mercenary archer in France, where he finds two things he can love: his instincts as a fighting man, and a girl in trouble. Together they survive the notorious massacre at Soissons, an event that shocks all Christendom. With no options left, Hook heads home to England, where his capture means certain death. Instead he is discovered by the young King of England—Henry V himself—and by royal command he takes up the longbow again and dons the cross of Saint George. Hook returns to France as part of the superb army Henry leads in his quest to claim the French crown. But after the English campaign suffers devastating early losses, it becomes clear that Hook and his fellow archers are their king’s last resort in a desperate fight against an enemy more daunting than they could ever have imagined.
What I Thought About It . . .
The only books that I had read by Cornwell before now consisted of two installments from the Richard Sharpe series. However, Small Review was good enough to send me this book since she found it not to her liking. I read just about anything and I confess I knew little about this battle. My knowledge of English history is sadly lacking, I’m afraid.
I imagine that Cornwell’s message is that war is not glamorous in this novel, but I could be wrong in my interpretation. I often found myself wondering though if we could have a little bit less mentioning of the army’s rampant diseases, and more about the death and destruction but we get some more of that once the army reaches Agincourt. Still I suppose it adds to the realistic feel of the book, in which I am quite certain I would not want to be a soldier or a soldier’s wife traveling with the army. I ponder whether or not I would have enjoyed it better had I been familiar with the history. Probably not since I don’t really find anything spectacular about the event (and you know this is because it doesn’t fall under one of the areas of history that I fancy). The author’s note mentions that it is a fairly accurate depiction from historical research and I think it is kind of neat that he takes the names for the archers from an actual roster of archers that were present during that campaign.
I wanted to like this book more because I think Cornwell does a great job of really bringing history to life in his books. But I consider myself to be a character-driven reader. I have to care about the characters to really enjoy a story. And that’s really why I fail to give this book a higher rating. I didn’t really care if Nick Hook survived Agincourt to be perfectly honest. Although the hearing voices of saints aspect was unexpected, and interesting to say the least. However, it is nice to discover he grew a spine after his initial horror of striking a priest in a failed attempt to save an angelic-looking “heretic” from being sexually assaulted by a lecherous man who claimed to speak for God. Seeing him gut the man about to do the same to a novice nun in Soissons? Yes, I confess I enjoyed the descriptions of how people died in this book.
Sir John’s dialogue was comical though at least to me. Now there’s a character I could like for no other reason than the fact that he amuses me.
But this doesn’t deter me from reading more books written by Bernard Cornwell. I was investigating his website and discovered other books he has written that I would like to read, books taking place during the American revolution and civil wars among other things.