Sunday, 20 November 2011

Azincourt, Bernard Cornwell

Publishers: HarperCollins

Pages: 542 (Paperback 2009)

Main Characters:

Nicholas Hook,

Azincourt is a one off novel from the historical author Bernard Cornwell. It tells the tale of the English invasion of France in 1415, looking through the eyes of a humble English archer Nicholas (Nick) Hook. The novel follows the English army from its departure, to the gruelling siege at Harfleur, through its march up to Calais and the final battle at Agincourt. It sees Nick turn into a hero and sees him help win the Battle of Agincourt with the help of his faith in the Saints Crispin and Crispinian.

This book was a great read and was the first book that really got me into historical fiction. It is very well written with a very accurate account of the English campaign of 1415. The part I like most about this book was that many of the characters were all real people and Cornwell uses them in the right historical context. Cornwell’s descriptions of the battles at Harfleur and Agincourt similarly make the book a brilliant read. Again keeping to the historical context, Cornwell describes the battles as if you were actually there and looking through Nick Hook’s eyes.  As well as describing how the battle happened, Cornwell’s description of how the archers are used makes this book even better to read. I think it would have been easy for him to over exaggerate the role the archers played in the Battle of Agincourt. For example, having them lead a charge for dramatic purposes or been great swordsmen who could fight the French Knights. But Cornwell doesn’t. He explains the actions of the archers correctly, (firing volleys of arrows and then finishing off the dying French Knights).  Cornwell makes this book great because he sticks to the historical evidence and context, making the book much more realistic and much better to read.

Nick Hook’s story is also a great asset to this book. Like many of Cornwell’s books, its sees unlikely people become the hero. It takes Hook from the atrocities of the siege of Soissons, to becoming an archer in Henry V’s army and finally a leader of his group of archers. Where he experiences romance, death, disease and the other factors life in a fifth-teenth century army brings. 

The book is well written and full of action and is very historically accurate. I would suggest that anyone interested in the Hundred Years War, archery or Bernard Cornwell read this book.  It certainly got me into the all of these and is a good book to start if wanting to read any of Bernard's  other novels!

Link to Bernard Cornwell’s Official site:

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