Sunday, October 25, 2015

Book Review: Agincourt

Happy Saint Crispin's Day!

Normally, today was honored by the early Christian Church for the martyrdom of two brothers.  However, a battle was fought 600 years ago this very day that's continues to capture the imagination of wargamers and military historians ever since--Agincourt.

Overall, I enjoyed the book.  The author's prose blends historical detail into a narrative that doesn't bore the reader with a "data dump."  Cornwell excels at describing the course of a battle from the viewpoint of the troops doing the actual fighting.
However, compared to Cornwell's other medieval works, the Grail Quest Series, Agincourt only earns an average rating of 4-stars on
The low raters (giving only 1-3 stars) complained about plodding prose, historical inaccuracies and/or too much inconsequential detail, shallow characters, a formulaic plot and a cookie-cutter protagonist.
The 4-star raters loved the book but also remarked about the formulaic plot and cookie cutter protagonist.
I enjoyed the book as I have with previous Cornwell stories I've read, even The Fort.  However, I have to agree with the 4-star raters and add another fourth star to Agincourt
In this story, the protagonist Thomas Hook follows in the wake of other Cornwell-conceived anti-heroes (Sharpe, Derfel, Thomas of Hookton and Uthred).  They're all low-born, but natural warriors, who have to combat not only their external enemies, but the ones within their own ranks as well.  Usually this takes the form of a rival, often paired-up with a certifiably insane priest.  Of course, the Cornwellian bad-boy can't confront his lethal frenemies openly, lest he be condemned as a criminal.
But just because a story is formulaic, doesn't mean it's bad.  In writing, as in science, formulas are used because they work--if followed correctly. 
And Bernard Cornwell is a master formula mixer--even if his spin on Agincourt didn't include the coolest battle speech ever.
(Image from:  Henry V)

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