Agincourt: A Novel, by Bernard Cornwell, is a novel about the travels of Englishman Nicholas Hook. It follows him from being outlawed, to surviving the blood bath of Soissons, fighting in Harfleur, and ending with the great battle between the English and French at Agincourt on October 25, 1415.
Nicholas starts off as a forester who finds himself on the wrong side of the law due to a longstanding family vendetta between the Hooks and the Perrills and is outlawed and sent to Soissons to fight for England as an archer. It is Hook’s excellent ability with the bow that saves him from a hanging and he sees his first battle at Soissons. It is during the fighting that Nick first hears the voices of Saints Crispinian, who continues to speak and guide Nick through his worst moments.
At Soissons, Nicholas saves the life of a nun named Melisande, and journeys with her to Harfluer where he again engages in battle again and is trained by the knight Sir John Cornewaille. He also befriends other archers in his regiment and the book details their adventures, alongside Melisande together through Harfleur and Agincourt.
The book is incredibly detailed without being boring. It’s history come to life; I couldn’t put it down once I started reading. At times, it is extremely graphic and violent, in particular at Soissons, but it gives the reader an understanding of medieval warfare. It is not for the faint at heart and there were moments where it became too easy to picture the horrors. Nonetheless, I wouldn’t have changed this in the book. It’s the details that make the book memorable and enjoyable to read. There were moments where you felt as if you were seeing the action as if you were Nicholas Hook. Cornwell bring medieval battle vivdly to life and captivates his audience. The group of archers he befriends provide some comic relief to the heavier, frightening battle scenes, in particular his teacher Sir John Cornewaille. Sir John was one of my favourtie characters and provided a laugh even during the most trying times.
Agincourt can be read by anyone whether they are interested in medieval warfare or not; it has everything; violence, battle, friendship, love and honour as well as being historically accurate. I highly recommend it.
Reviewed by Sandra Alvarez