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Agincourt
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About the Author

BERNARD CORNWELL is the author of the acclaimed New York Times bestselling Saxon Tales series, which includes The Last Kingdom, The Pale Horseman, Lords of the North, Sword Song, The Burning Land, Death of Kings, The Pagan Lord, and, most recently, The Empty Throne and Warriors of the Storm, and which serves as the basis for the hit television series The Last Kingdom. He lives with his wife on Cape Cod and in Charleston, South Carolina.

Reviews

A literary veteran of the Napoleonic Wars and the U.S. Civil War, Cornwell returns to the Hundred Years War era in this action-packed if slightly melodramatic epic about King Henry V and the Battle of Agincourt in 1415. Nicholas Hook, an English forester, is on the run after interfering with a rapist priest and ends up a mercenary defender at Soissons, where he saves a young and beautiful novitiate, Melisande. With his French prize in tow, he returns to England and signs on with Henry's army as an archer. Back on French soil, he fights and slogs his way to Agincourt, where 6,000 Englishmen confront 30,000 French soldiers. Hearing the voice of St. Crispinian whispering to him in times of personal crisis, Hook has his hands full with the French and defending himself from the vengeance-seeking rapist priest and Melisande's father. The crisply rendered battle scenes are adrenaline rushes of blood, thunder and clashing swords that transport the reader back to the early 15th century. Unfortunately, Hook's Hollywood-ready construction undercuts the "you are there" feeling of Cornwell's otherwise vivid recreation of Henry V's greatest military triumph. (Jan.) Copyright 2008 Reed Business Information.

Cornwell, best known for historical series like the Sharpe novels and the "Saxon Tales," has written a stand-alone work that focuses on one of England's greatest military victories, the Battle of Agincourt in 1415, as seen by archer Nicholas Hook. Hook joins the army to avoid being hanged after attacking a priest and is immediately sent to defend the English garrison at the besieged French town of Soissons. During the carnage following the town's surrender, he rescues a Frenchwoman, Melisande, from marauding troops. The romance that develops between them adds an element of tension to the narrative because Hook must protect her from an array of dangers. The British army resumes battle with a siege of Harfleur and then sets out for Calais but is forced into a seemingly hopeless showdown with French troops near the town of Agincourt. Cornwell bases the final battle scene on the widely held belief that the English were greatly outnumbered by the French and comes up with a plausible scenario for an English victory. Though 464 pages long, this novel never feels inflated or meandering and perfectly captures the spirit of 15th-century Europe. Most impressive, Cornwell has produced a military adventure with a subtle but powerful antiwar tone, filled with dramatic battle scenes that unsparingly convey the horrors and futility of the Agincourt campaign. Recommended for all libraries.-Douglas Southard, CRA International Inc., Boston Copyright 2008 Reed Business Information.

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