The book is set in the The Hundred Years War, and in particular the campaign that culminated in Crecy (1346). The story is about English archer Thomas Blackstone, a young stone mason (he's about 16 years old) who has had a better education than most thanks to a French mother. He has also been trained in the war bow by his father, an archer who saved the life of their local Lord in a previous battle.
Both parents are dead, and his only remaining family is his slightly simple, deaf and mute brother who is accused of the murder of a local girl. In order to escape the death penalty both brothers enlist in the troop of their Lord destined to join the army of Edward III who is about to sail to Normandy to reclaim his lands from the French King.
There then follows a very colourful and descriptive account of what it must have been like to fight as an archer in a medieval army - care of the bows, how they are made, what the archers ate, the complex relationship between the hugely skilled and valued archers and their commanders, the tensions that existed in a "British" army at the time which comprised mostly English and Welsh troops both at each others throats except when they were fighting the French.
The book is also very good on the campaign, the struggle to find a river crossing that would allow the army to get back to the coast, and which culminated in the battle of Crecy.
Gilman's description of the battle is also very good and is in the same vein as Bernard Cornwell - there's lots of mud, blood, pain, wounds, injuries, and death, both human and animal - the description of how the English and Welsh archers brought down the first charge by the French knights is mind boggling (broad headed hunting arrows shot at their unprotected legs...)
The battle ends with Thomas trying to save his brother from being killed by French knights in the final attack, but in the process also helping to save Edward the Black Prince - he sustains huge injuries but the Prince is so impressed he knights him on the battle field..
There are a few unanswered questions, and I for one am looking forward to the next book (
Very good - Steve the Wargamer rates this one as 9 out of 10
* At the time of writing the book is still available for 99p on Kindle - quite possibly one of the better pounds you would have spent this year if you go for it..