Thursday, August 6, 2009

Difficult to Finish: "Agincourt" by Bernard Cornwell

Difficult to Finish: Agincourt by Bernard Cornwell, 2009, 9780061578915.

Another French killing novel by Cornwell. Cornwell sure does love dead frogs and English archers. This was tough to finish because it was 437 pages long and I was constantly interrupted by attacks from Boy #1 and Boy #2. I enjoyed the book though.

Nicholas Hook's family has been feuding with the neighboring Perrill's for about three generations. One part of that feud is Reverend Martin, the not-so-secret father of two of the Perrill's. Hook tries to protect a girl from rape by Martin and slugs Martin. Slugging a priest is a capital offense and Hook flees to become a mercenary archer in France.

Hook survives the siege and slaughter at Soissons and rescues a girl about to be raped after the city falls. Hook and gal flee across France to Calais and then to England. Hook and gal are an item Hook is outlawed from slugging the priest but is taken in by a Sir John Cornwaill as an archer.

Hook travels with Cornwaill and the English army invading France. The army is stuck sieging the port city of Harfleur for longer than expected. The English start suffering from dysentery and waste away the summer campaigning season trying to breach Harfleur's city walls. By time Harfleur is defeated autumn is coming fast and the already small English army is badly weakened from disease.

English start marching to show King Henry's defiance to the frogs. English finally meet up with the much larger French army near the small castle of Agincourt. Heavy rain before the battle soaks the already rough and trampled ground. The frogs' cavalry are unable to slog through the thick mud. The French men-at-arms slog through the same mud in full armor to attack. The French men-at-arms flanks are open after the cavalry fails to kill off the English archers. The archers chew up the frogs and funnel them into a narrow attack line. English men-at-arms are able to chop up the French who are unable to use their numbers to advantage.

The French are killed in large numbers. Some French captives are killed during a lull on order of King Henry when he worries that guarding the captives takes up too many of his soldiers. The French lose and retreat. Hook and girlfriend capture her French knight father and will become rich from the ransom. Happy endings all around with dead French and rich English.

I first read about Agincourt several years ago in Keegan's The Face of War. Cornwell quotes Keegan in the beginning of the book. Both Keegan and Cornwell educate about the advantage and killing power of the English bow.

Standard Cornwell elements: rape and slaughter after military victory, hurrah for maps!, repeated info on archers and their bows, hero hooks up with hot chick, hot chick threatened by evil dude, evil dude has power through rank or birthright, lots of dead French in battle scenes, likable secondary characters are killed, good description of the fighting ground and other terrain, "brings history alive" writing, ruthless and cruel power of the church, ruthless and cruel laws and justice, revenge, lots of blood, atheism and devoutness.

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