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Agincourt: A Novel [Kindle Edition]

Bernard Cornwell
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (393 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Agincourt is classic Cornwell…[with] attention to historical detail, well-paced action, and descriptive writing that is a pleasure to read.”
 —Boston Globe

 

Bernard Cornwell, the New York Times bestselling “reigning king of historical fiction” (USA Today), tackles his most thrilling, rich, and enthralling subject yet—the heroic tale of Agincourt. The epic battle immortalized by William Shakespeare in his classic Henry V is the background for this breathtaking tale of heroism, love, devotion, and duty from the legendary author of the Richard Sharpe novels and the Saxon Tales. This extraordinary adventure will captivate from page one, proving once again and most powerfully, as author Lee Child attests, that “nobody in the world does this stuff better than Cornwell.”



Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Book Description

"The greatest writer of historical adventures today" (Washington Post) tackles his richest, most thrilling subject yet--the heroic tale of Agincourt.

Young Nicholas Hook is dogged by a cursed past--haunted by what he has failed to do and banished for what he has done. A wanted man in England, he is driven to fight as a mercenary archer in France, where he finds two things he can love: his instincts as a fighting man, and a girl in trouble. Together they survive the notorious massacre at Soissons, an event that shocks all Christendom. With no options left, Hook heads home to England, where his capture means certain death. Instead he is discovered by the young King of England--Henry V himself--and by royal command he takes up the longbow again and dons the cross of Saint George. Hook returns to France as part of the superb army Henry leads in his quest to claim the French crown. But after the English campaign suffers devastating early losses, it becomes clear that Hook and his fellow archers are their king's last resort in a desperate fight against an enemy more daunting than they could ever have imagined.

One of the most dramatic victories in British history, the battle of Agincourt--immortalized by Shakespeare in Henry V--pitted undermanned and overwhelmed English forces against a French army determined to keep their crown out of Henry's hands. Here Bernard Cornwell resurrects the legend of the battle and the "band of brothers" who fought it on October 25, 1415. An epic of redemption, Agincourt follows a commoner, a king, and a nation's entire army on an improbable mission to test the will of God and reclaim what is rightfully theirs. From the disasters at the siege of Harfleur to the horrors of the field of Agincourt, this exhilarating story of survival and slaughter is at once a brilliant work of history and a triumph of imagination—Bernard Cornwell at his best.

Historical Notes on Agincourt by Bernard Cornwell

The battle of Agincourt (Azincourt was and remains the French spelling) was one of the most remarkable events of medieval Europe, a battle whose reputation far outranked its importance. In the long history of Anglo-French rivalry only Hastings, Waterloo, Trafalgar, and Crécy share Agincourt’s renown. It is arguable that Poitiers was a more significant battle and an even more complete victory, or that Verneuil was just as astonishing a triumph, and it’s certain that Hastings, Blenheim, Victoria, Trafalgar, and Waterloo were more influential on the course of history, yet Agincourt still holds its extraordinary place in English legend. Something quite remarkable happened on 25 October 1415 (Agincourt was fought long before Christendom’s conversion to the new-style calendar, so the modern anniversary should be on 4 November). It was something so remarkable that its fame persists almost six hundred years later.

Agincourt’s fame could just be an accident, a quirk of history reinforced by Shakespeare’s genius, but the evidence suggests it really was a battle that sent a shock wave through Europe. For years afterward the French called 25 October 1415 la malheureuse journée (the unfortunate day). Even after they had expelled the English from France they remembered la malheureuse journée with sadness. It had been a disaster.

Yet it was so nearly a disaster for Henry V and his small, but well-equipped army. That army had sailed from Southampton Water with high hopes, the chief of which was the swift capture of Harfleur, which would be followed by a foray into the French heartland in hope, presumably, of bringing the French to battle. A victory in that battle would demonstrate, at least in the pious Henry’s mind, God’s support of his claim to the French throne, and might even propel him onto that throne. Such hopes were not vain when his army was intact, but the siege of Harfleur took much longer than expected and Henry’s army was almost ruined by dysentery.

The tale of the siege in the novel is, by and large, accurate, though I did take one great liberty, which was to sink a mineshaft opposite the Leure Gate. There was no such shaft, the ground would not allow it, and all the real mines were dug by the Duke of Clarence’s forces that were assailing the eastern side of Harfleur. The French counter-mines defeated those diggings, but I wanted to give a flavor, however inadequately, of the horrors men faced in fighting beneath the earth. The defense of Harfleur was magnificent, for which much of the praise must go to Raoul de Gaucourt, one of the garrison’s leaders. His defiance, and the long days of the siege, gave the French a chance to raise a much larger army than any they might have fielded against Henry if the siege had ended, say, in early September.

Maps of the Battlefield (Click to Enlarge)

England and France, 1415:
One of the most dramatic victories in British history, the battle of Agincourt--immortalized by Shakespeare in Henry V--pitted undermanned and overwhelmed English forces against a French army determined to keep their crown out of Henry's hands.

The French Coast:
The British campaign, which started at Harfleur, ended more than two months later on 25 October at Agincourt.
Harfleur:
Henry's army landed in northern France on 13 August 1415 and besieged the port of Harfleur.
The Battle Lines:
“We few, we happy few, we band of brothers; For he today who sheds his blood with me shall be my brother.” – William Shakespeare, Henry V

From Publishers Weekly

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 © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Product Details

  • File Size: 1646 KB
  • Print Length: 467 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0007271220
  • Publisher: HarperCollins e-books; Reprint edition (October 6, 2009)
  • Sold by: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B001NLL8X8
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
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  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #20,952 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
179 of 184 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars one of cornwell's better novels November 29, 2008
Format:Paperback
This is currently (Nov 29) available from amazon.uk under the title "Azincourt", which is the French spelling of the town where the battle took place. It seems that this has confused quite a few of the Brit readers, and the US title will be "Agincourt". The flavor is similar to the Grail Quest series, but set in 1413-1415 rather than the 14th century, and the hero is Nick Hook rather than Thomas of Hookton: both are skilled archers, both have noble fathers but are not part of the nobility (in Hook's case the parentage is strongly suggested). The strengths of Cornwell's works are the battle scenes, and here you get the sieges of Harfleur and Soissons and of course Agincourt.

You get a good feel for the time and place--London and France--and the mercenary troops that Hook joins. There's a lot of attention to the armor of the period--almost too much attention. There are descriptions that have the donning of armor piece by piece which has the feel of Cornwell showing off his research rather than adding to the story--since it isn't Hook who is wearing the armor. Hook is an exceptionally skilled longbowman, which enables him to rise in the ranks and do more protagonizing, so to speak. We don't get too many novels about the ordinary grunts--those who might be good at their profession, but not great.

Cornwell is a very prolific writer. This is good in ways, but the danger is that sometimes in such cases novels are not always as original and creative as they could be. So in Azincourt we have a love interest, and we have some evil villains. Hook's main enemy is a lunatic priest of noble lineage, a bible-misquoting rapist.
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78 of 80 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars We Few, We Proud, We Band of Readers January 31, 2009
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
When I hear reviewers say that 'No one understands the experience of the common soldier better than Bernard Cornwell' or something similar, I smile and think, 'Yeah, well how about the common soldier? And by that, I mean the Infantry 'grunt' who wields a modern sword, still sleeps in mud and filth, and endures ordeals and trials the likes of which most people will only ever read about. It's just possible he might have a clue.
Having said that, let me add that no WRITER understands the experience of the common soldier better than Bernard Cornwell. He's the Ernie Pyle of, oh, let's see- the Viking raids, Napoleonic wars, the Middle Ages, and the American War Between the States (or for my Southern friends- 'The War of Northern Aggression). In short, Cornwell gets it right; the pride, the rage, the pain, the loss and the soul sucking weariness in the aftermath of battle.
AGINCOURT is his latest novel and his latest educational look at a battle that inspired so many writers and historians. Here we find young Nicholas Hook, an archer who...nevermind.
Don't you just hate it when some smug reviewer gives away too much of the plot before you've had a chance to read the book? 'Who would've known that such is such is really the bad guy, he or she dies, or here's how the major battle ends?
I don't know, the reader, for one. You're really capable of making up our own mind about what you like and/or the why behind why you like it.
So, I'll just say that if you're a Cornwell fan, you'll enjoy the book. He seldom skimps on storyline.
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34 of 38 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Cornwell tells their story, and nobody does it better. January 26, 2009
Format:Paperback
Here's the situation. You're a peasant, and as we used to say back home, you're so broke you can't pay attention. You're in the middle of a medieval battlefield, filled with rough characters and sharp weapons, with nothing to cover your own precious hide but the clothes on your back. You have one superb weapon --- the English longbow --- but not much in the way of arrows. You also have a long, sharp stick, assuming you haven't burned it for firewood already. On the other side of the line of battle, there is a nobleman, a feudal lord who owns, more or less, the labor of hundreds of people just like you. He's on a horse, wearing a suit of armor that incorporates all of the best technology of the day and worth more than your entire village can produce in 10 years. You've shot your last arrow, and the guy with the armor is coming to crush your skull. A plan would seem to be in order.

This is what you do, if you're lucky enough and strong enough to pull it off. You plant yourself right in front of the galloping, charging horse (nobody said this was going to be easy), stab it with your sharpened stick, and hope that the animal is hurt enough and scared enough to knock its rider clean off. While the knight is still on his back, trapped under the weight of his armor, you find the one weak spot in the armor --- his visor. And then you draw your long hunting knife and stab the no-good wretch right in the eye. Score one for the home team.

That's the reality of medieval warfare. It's savage, messy, and a million miles away from something as comparatively cold and dispassionate as pushing the button that unleashes hundreds of pounds of high explosives from a Predator drone over a terrorist camp.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars History Lover loves Bernard Cornwell
Haven't read a Bernard Cornwell book yet that I didn't thoroughly enjoy.
Published 2 days ago by Deborah F Rawlings
5.0 out of 5 stars A good tale!
Cromwell succeeds in building a well-crafted tale around a single historical event, with which most will be more familiar from the work of William Shakespeare. Read more
Published 2 days ago by John L. Ragle
2.0 out of 5 stars Is it possible that this book was misprinted and some received it as...
This is my first experience with Bernard Cornwell and from all the raving reveiws I definately expected much more. Read more
Published 4 days ago by lidias kindle
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Vintage Cornwell, you pick it up and can't put it down, How long until the next one!
Published 6 days ago by sprngvac
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Another winner by Cornwell. Couldn't put it down.
Published 29 days ago by FJL
4.0 out of 5 stars Attention to acuracy and detail
Based on the research undertaken by the author, in ensuring the accuracy of his descriptions of armour, weaponry, lifestyles of the ordinary people. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Amazon Customer
4.0 out of 5 stars Archers Rock
And the French still don't get it. That is one theme of this masterfully told and meticulously researched historical novel of the blood and guts endemic to medieval warfare. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Billy Boy
4.0 out of 5 stars Good entertainment
A light entertaining read and like most of this author's books provides a good overview of the actual historical event even though set within a work of fiction. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Michael S. Post
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellant Cornwell
While not an extension of the Thomas Hookton series, it brings more of the Hundred Years War to a personal level. Read more
Published 1 month ago by robert bossell
4.0 out of 5 stars Arrows Win
Another excellent historical novel by Cornwell. It explains in detail why the English long bow was such a formidable weapon in the hands of those that knew how to use it.
Published 1 month ago by Jerry M. McMahan
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More About the Author

Bernard Cornwell was born in London in 1944 - a 'warbaby' - whose father was a Canadian airman and mother in Britain's Women's Auxiliary Air Force. He was adopted by a family in Essex who belonged to a religious sect called the Peculiar People (and they were), but escaped to London University and, after a stint as a teacher, he joined BBC Television where he worked for the next 10 years. He began as a researcher on the Nationwide programme and ended as Head of Current Affairs Television for the BBC in Northern Ireland. It was while working in Belfast that he met Judy, a visiting American, and fell in love. Judy was unable to move to Britain for family reasons so Bernard went to the States where he was refused a Green Card. He decided to earn a living by writing, a job that did not need a permit from the US government - and for some years he had been wanting to write the adventures of a British soldier in the Napoleonic wars - and so the Sharpe series was born. Bernard and Judy married in 1980, are still married, still live in the States and he is still writing Sharpe.

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