Reviews for Agincourt

Booklist Reviews 2008 October #2
"Few medieval battles are as well known as the Battle of Agincourt, and few contemporary writers are as qualified as Cornwell to re-create such a legendary conflict. Anyone who has read or seen Shakespeare's Henry V is familiar with the remarkable tale of the woefully outnumbered English army's stirring victory against vastly superior French forces on October 25, 1415 (St. Crispin's Day). In his own inimitable style, Cornwell breathes new life into the military campaign that revolutionized warfare and heralded the beginning of the end of the Hundred Years' War. At the heart of Cornwell's retelling is longbowman Nicholas Hook, an intriguing antihero with a questionable past, whose straightforward soldier's viewpoint sheds intimate light on the complexities and the attendant gore and the glory of the battlefield. This fine stand-alone from the author of the multivolume Sharpe novels and the Saxon Tales is a must-read for fans of authentically detailed historical fiction who like their battle scenes drawn with a realistically bold, brutal, and bloody strokes." Copyright 2008 Booklist Reviews.

Kirkus Reviews 2008 November #1
An archer on the lam from a bum rap in his county ships out with Henry V to test his shooting and slashing skills at one of the bloodiest but most glorious battles in history.Cornwell (Sword Song, 2008, etc.), having dealt in gorgeous detail with the role of the longbow at Crecy in his three-volume Archer series, effectively laid the groundwork for this single-volume assessment of the great victory at Agincourt. The hero this time is Nicholas Hood, easily the best archer in his neighborhood, but stuck like his younger brother at the bottom of the local food chain even though he is probably the bastard child of the local squire Lord Slayton. The Hood family was cursed by the evil Perrill family, and the two clans have been feuding for generations. The Perrills, with assistance from dastardly priest Sir Martin, frame the Hooks with a capital crime, forcing Nicholas to leave for London, then ship out for France in the King's forces. Across the channel he is witness to slaughter and treachery at the siege of Soissons, where, following emergency prayers to St. Crispin and St. Crispinian, he acquires their saintly protection and advice as well as the companionship of lovely local lass Melisande, bastard daughter of one of the greatest French warriors. There is barely time to rest before Nicholas and Melisande ship out again, this time with the King and his expeditionary force. Prince Hal hopes to reclaim his French crown, but his strategy runs afoul of steely resistance by the defenders of the Seine port Harfleur. What was to have been a walkover turns into a long siege in which dysentery claims as many victims as battle. The finally victorious but much depleted English force, instead of calling it a day, heads under Henry toward Calais, a march that draws the attention of the vastly larger French army and finally leads to battle in the sodden fields outside the village the French call Azincourt.The usual splendid stuff from the master of historical battle. There's a bit of deus ex machina, but it's tolerable. Copyright Kirkus 2008 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.

Library Journal Reviews 2008 November #2

Cornwell, best known for historical series like the Sharpe novels and the "Saxon Tales," has written a stand-alone work that focuses on one of England's greatest military victories, the Battle of Agincourt in 1415, as seen by archer Nicholas Hook. Hook joins the army to avoid being hanged after attacking a priest and is immediately sent to defend the English garrison at the besieged French town of Soissons. During the carnage following the town's surrender, he rescues a Frenchwoman, Melisande, from marauding troops. The romance that develops between them adds an element of tension to the narrative because Hook must protect her from an array of dangers. The British army resumes battle with a siege of Harfleur and then sets out for Calais but is forced into a seemingly hopeless showdown with French troops near the town of Agincourt. Cornwell bases the final battle scene on the widely held belief that the English were greatly outnumbered by the French and comes up with a plausible scenario for an English victory. Though 464 pages long, this novel never feels inflated or meandering and perfectly captures the spirit of 15th-century Europe. Most impressive, Cornwell has produced a military adventure with a subtle but powerful antiwar tone, filled with dramatic battle scenes that unsparingly convey the horrors and futility of the Agincourt campaign. Recommended for all libraries.--Douglas Southard, CRA International Inc., Boston

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Publishers Weekly Reviews 2008 October #2

A literary veteran of the Napoleonic Wars and the U.S. Civil War, Cornwell returns to the Hundred Years War era in this action-packed if slightly melodramatic epic about King Henry V and the Battle of Agincourt in 1415. Nicholas Hook, an English forester, is on the run after interfering with a rapist priest and ends up a mercenary defender at Soissons, where he saves a young and beautiful novitiate, Melisande. With his French prize in tow, he returns to England and signs on with Henry's army as an archer. Back on French soil, he fights and slogs his way to Agincourt, where 6,000 Englishmen confront 30,000 French soldiers. Hearing the voice of St. Crispinian whispering to him in times of personal crisis, Hook has his hands full with the French and defending himself from the vengeance-seeking rapist priest and Melisande's father. The crisply rendered battle scenes are adrenaline rushes of blood, thunder and clashing swords that transport the reader back to the early 15th century. Unfortunately, Hook's Hollywood-ready construction undercuts the "you are there" feeling of Cornwell's otherwise vivid recreation of Henry V's greatest military triumph. (Jan.)

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