Tuesday, March 12, 2013

book review: "Azincourt" by Bernard Cornwell

Bernard Cornwell

Azincourt (or Agincourt) is apparently one of the most famous battles in English history, but having no knowledge of the pre-Tudor era I had no idea what to expect. Yet Bernard Cornwell tells us about the famous battle only in the last 1/3 of the novel, instead focusing on the story of English archer Nicholas Hook and how he came to be part of la malheureuse journee ("the unfortunate day") for France on Saint Crispin's Day, 25 October 1415.

Cornwell has Hook hearing the voices of Saint Crispin and Saint Crispinian and guiding him, but I think this was underutilized in the development of his character. I felt no connection with him or any of the characters in the novel because despite the horrors they experienced, they still lacked depth.

Cornwell's descriptions of the siege of the port town of Harfleur and the Battle of Azincourt that followed were well-written. I never realized the strength and the importance of archers in battle. To give one an idea why Azincourt became legendary, here is an illustration of the battlefield (from The New York Times) -

However, I would have appreciated more information about the history of the enmity between England and France, and about the king who brought the Englishmen and Welshmen to war, Henry V.


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