When a customer (at the pub) handed me a copy of the faction (fiction based on fact) book, sternly told me to read it, then moved on to tell me it was about Agincourt, I stared at him blankly. Agincourt? What was Agincourt or Azincourt I asked. Turns out it was a battle in a war known as the hundred years war in which two family houses fought it out for the right to be the ruling monarch of France. Agincourt was the battle in which the English was victorious even though they were extremely outnumbered.
It is also the origins from which the two fingered salute comes from. It derives from the gestures of longbowmen fighting in the English army. The French claimed they would cut off the the archer’s shooting fingers once they had won the battle, but the victorious English, at the end of the battle displayed their hands with their fingers still intact as a taunt to the French.
So, with all this new found knewledge, I tentatively started reading. There was a lot of rape, murder and pilage. And that’s just in the first chapter.
When we first meet our hero, archer Nick Hook, he’s plotting murder. It doesn’t quite go as he’s planned and once he’s moved on from that failed attempt, he witnesses the killing of so called heretics and fails to save a young girl from being raped and murdered. This young girl continues to haunt him throughout the story.
Hook does later on manage to save another girl, this time a French nun from being raped and ultimately murdered. This girl turns out to be his penance and his saving grace as well as his love.
While I enjoyed this book and the descriptions of the battles and war were beautifully constructed, I felt that the characters were left underdeveloped and there were situations which were not payed off. But if the reader can look past this, Bernard Cornwell’s Azincourt is an intelligent fiction retelling of the battle of Agincourt.