Saturday, February 14, 2009


Violence. There were times during my reading of Bernard Cornwell’s Agincourt that I had to put the book down, close my eyes and try to remove the images of violence and bloodshed from my mind. Cornwell does what good writers of historical fiction attempt: transport readers into the time and place while maintain much historical accuracy, and add fictional characters and dialogue that brings history to life in the form of the impact of major events on ordinary lives. In this case, most readers already know from Shakespeare or elsewhere what happened in this battle in France in October 1415. Cornwell leads readers into the battle with a few hundred pages of buildup that sets a context and presents characters that make the novel a story of people as much as the event itself. Agincourt’s protagonist is Nick Hook, a perfect English name (one can almost hear Rowan Atkinson pronouncing it with heavy emphasis on that “k” consonant). Nick is a talented archer at a time when England’s archers delivered mass destruction to the enemies of King Henry V. Nick becomes an outlaw after a long family feud leads to trouble at home. He runs away and is taken under the wing of a warrior-lord who prizes Nick’s skills. Nick’s exploits include his rescue of the bastard daughter of a French lord from being raped in the convent where she is a novice nun. The battle scenes are bloody, the violence almost constant, and the pace of the story brisk. The 460 pages turned rapidly, interrupted only when I needed to cleanse by brain from all the violence.

Rating: Three-star (Recommended)

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