About 50 years after Thomas of Hookton fought in the battle of Crecy in Bernard Cornwell’s Grail Quest Trilogy (Harlequin/The Archer’s Tale, Vagabond, Heretic), another archer, Nicholas Hook is the main character in Bernard Cornwell’s story of the 1415 battle of Azincourt.
As a result of a multi-generational feud between the Hook family and the Perrill family, Nicholas Hook must flee England to avoid the gallows and ends up fighting as an archer in the garrisoned city of Soissons. When the French brutally attack Soissons to take it back from the English, Hook is one of the few survivors, along with a novice nun, Melisande. While in Soissons, Hook prays to the city’s patron saints Crispin and Crispinian who advise Hook whenever he is in danger for the rest of the story.
Hook then travels with King Henry V’s army to capture Halfleur. The occupants of Halfleur hold out against King Henry for much longer than anyone expects, and although the English finally win, their army is halved through war casualties and disease. King Henry, feeling that he has gained too little, decides to march to Calais rather than sail directly back to England, and loses many more men to starvation and dysentery on the way.
By the time the English reach Azincourt, their numbers have been reduced to about 6000. So, when the French finally confront them with an army of about 30,000, there doesn’t seem to be a lot of hope for King Henry’s men.
The battle of Azincourt is one of the most famous battles in the history of the English-French 100 years war and demonstrates the power of good battle tactics and the huge advantage that the English had in using the long bow.
As with all of Bernard Cornwell’s books I found this one to be historically accurate and detailed while being full of personality and very readable. You’ll need to learn to cope with lots of gore as the battles (and a lot of everyday life) are incredibly gruesome. There is also the usual amount of medieval suspicion and church corruption. This is a great read for medieval history lovers.
Book published 2009