Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Azincourt...

I seem to have been reading quite a lot at the moment - I can only blame it on the absolute crackers that are currently hitting the book shelves...!

This one is no exception - I've been reading Mr. Cornwell's output for years now, and have probably read every book he's ever written (including one or two he wrote with his wife) but I can absolutely and honestly say that this one is up there in what I consider to be the top 5, and possibly top 3, of his books. It is absolutely un-putdown-able!

The book is set in the Hundred Years War, and marks a return for Cornwell to the same period he depicted in the Grail series, but not the same characters. The book traces the story of one Nicholas Hook, who is branded an outlaw for helping free a Lollard girl due to be executed, and escapes to France to fight in a mercenary company. Following various adventures in France he eventually narrowly escapes death during a siege when the victorious French troops run riot. He evades capture and returns to England with news of the siege, and having had an audience with the king (Henry V) he is given a place in Sir John Cornwaille's company of bowmen, that he is preparing to take to France.

I'm not going to spoil the rest of the book by telling you what then happens, but a goodly part of the book is about the siege of Harfleur, and the battle of Agincourt (Azincourt).

When Cornwell succeeds is in his depictions of battle, and while you would normally describe him as an exponent of black powder battles (Sharpe/Starbuck) he is without a doubt equally adept at describing what might have gone on, on a medieval battle field. In a word.... unpleasant

His descriptions of the attacks at Agincourt are particularly descriptive, the effects of the arrow storm, what happens when a fully armoured man hits another similarly protected man with a variety of very heavy weapons, human frailty's, it's all there....

I was beginning to get a little underwhelmed by his Alfred series, this book is his best in years, and despite what I said in the last book review about allowing room for improved scores, Steve-the-Wargamer rates this unequivocally as 10 out of 10.... :o))

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