Monthly Archives: January 2014

Agincourt (Cornwell): Book Review

Agincourt is the first book I’ve read by Bernard Cornwell. Throughout the story I was struck by the level of detail he put into explaining various aspects of medieval life, even when the explanation did not contribute significantly to the plot of the story. It shows the real in-depth research that went into the creation of this book.

Some examples of this are…

  • The way in which contracts between the king and his lords are drawn up, sealed, and later authenticated for the purpose of providing troops for a campaign.
  • How English longbows were constructed and how the different types of arrowheads were hardened and what they were used for.
  • Ways various types of siege equipment were constructed and used, along with the advantages and difficulties involved in each.

These are not dry explanations though, they were fit quite naturally into brief sentences and paragraphs throughout the narrative…

“The dark heartwood of the bow’s belly was stiff and unyielding. It resisted bending, while the light-colored sapwood of the bow’s spine did not mind being pulled into a curve, yet, like the heartwood, it wanted to straighten and it possessed a springiness that, released from pressure, whipped the stave back to its normal shape. So the flexible spine pulled and the stiff belly pushed, and so the long arrow flew.” (p.93)

So by the end,  the reader has been given a thorough history lesson on life during this time period along with a compelling story.

The story itself is about a young Englishman, Nicholas Hook, who gets into trouble and becomes an outlaw, but eventually ends up in the service of Henry V during preparations for a campaign into France that would eventually involve the Battle of Agincourt.

Hook is possibly schizophrenic. He hears the voices of long dead saints who occasionally talk to him and give him encouraging words or comfort him in some way. Or perhaps the author meant to suggest that Hook was actually divinely blessed, however the saints never seemed to tell him anything that he couldn’t have simply imagined.

Overall an interesting story, and an excellent look at day-to-day life and warfare of the time period. I listened to the audiobook version from Audible, but it’s also available on Kindle, and in Paperback and Hardcover.

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