Agincourt

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Overview

"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 ...

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2009 Hardcover First Edition; First Printing New in New dust jacket 0061578916. Brand new, mylar covering; 8vo 8"-9" tall; 464 pages.

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Overview

"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.

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  • Bernard Cornwell
    Bernard Cornwell  

Editorial Reviews

Diana Gabaldon
This is a book for those who like nonstop action, preferably drenched in blood, mud and bad language…Cornwell's historical accuracy is excellent throughout, and he gracefully acknowledges his sources in an interesting "Historical Note" at the end. Agincourt isn't a glorious battle; you see every mud-clogged, blood-soaked inch of the field and smell the sweat and excrement of the archers, knights and foot soldiers who fought for those hard-won inches. But when the fighting's over, you're left with a sense of awe at what was done there, and admiration for the men who did it.
—The Washington Post
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.
Library Journal

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

Kirkus Reviews
An archer on the lam from a bum rap in his county ships out with Henry V to test his shooting and slashing skills at one of the bloodiest but most glorious battles in history. Cornwell (Sword Song, 2008, etc.), having dealt in gorgeous detail with the role of the longbow at Crecy in his three-volume Archer series, effectively laid the groundwork for this single-volume assessment of the great victory at Agincourt. The hero this time is Nicholas Hood, easily the best archer in his neighborhood, but stuck like his younger brother at the bottom of the local food chain even though he is probably the bastard child of the local squire Lord Slayton. The Hood family was cursed by the evil Perrill family, and the two clans have been feuding for generations. The Perrills, with assistance from dastardly priest Sir Martin, frame the Hooks with a capital crime, forcing Nicholas to leave for London, then ship out for France in the King's forces. Across the channel he is witness to slaughter and treachery at the siege of Soissons, where, following emergency prayers to St. Crispin and St. Crispinian, he acquires their saintly protection and advice as well as the companionship of lovely local lass Melisande, bastard daughter of one of the greatest French warriors. There is barely time to rest before Nicholas and Melisande ship out again, this time with the King and his expeditionary force. Prince Hal hopes to reclaim his French crown, but his strategy runs afoul of steely resistance by the defenders of the Seine port Harfleur. What was to have been a walkover turns into a long siege in which dysentery claims as many victims as battle. The finally victorious but much depleted English force, instead ofcalling it a day, heads under Henry toward Calais, a march that draws the attention of the vastly larger French army and finally leads to battle in the sodden fields outside the village the French call Azincourt. The usual splendid stuff from the master of historical battle. There's a bit of deus ex machina, but it's tolerable.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780061578915
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 1/20/2009
  • Pages: 464
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 1.50 (d)

Meet the Author

Bernard Cornwell is the author of the acclaimed New York Times bestsellers 1356 and Agincourt; the bestselling Saxon Tales, which include The Last Kingdom, The Pale Horseman, Lords of the North, Sword Song, The Burning Land, and most recently Death of Kings; and the Richard Sharpe novels, among many others. He lives with his wife on Cape Cod and in Charleston, South Carolina.

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Read an Excerpt

Agincourt

Chapter One

The River Aisne swirled slow through a wide valley edged with low wooded hills. It was spring and the new leaves were a startling green. Long weeds swayed in the river where it looped around the city of Soissons.

The city had walls, a cathedral, and a castle. It was a fortress that guarded the Flanders road, which led north from Paris, and now it was held by the enemies of France. The garrison wore the jagged red cross of Burgundy and above the castle flew the gaudy flag of Burgundy's duke, a flag that quartered the royal arms of France with blue and yellow stripes, all of it badged with a rampant lion.

The rampant lion was at war with the lilies of France, and Nicholas Hook understood none of it. "You don't need to understand it," Henry of Calais had told him in London, "on account of it not being your goddam business. It's the goddam French falling out amongst themselves, that's all you need to know, and one side is paying us money to fight, and I hire archers and I send them to kill whoever they're told to kill. Can you shoot?"

"I can shoot."

"We'll see, won't we?"

Nicholas Hook could shoot, and so he was in Soissons, beneath the flag with its stripes, lion, and lilies. He had no idea where Burgundy was, he knew only that it had a duke called John the Fearless, and that the duke was first cousin to the King of France.

"And he's mad, the French king is," Henry of Calais had told Hook in England. "He's mad as a spavined polecat, the stupid bastard thinks he's made of glass. He's frightened that someone will give him a smart tap and he'll break into a thousand pieces. The truth is he's got turnips forbrains, he does, and he's fighting against the duke who isn't mad. He's got brains for brains."

"Why are they fighting?" Hook had asked.

"How in God's name would I know? Or care? What I care about, son, is that the duke's money comes from the bankers. There." He had slapped some silver on the tavern table. Earlier that day Hook had gone to the Spital Fields beyond London's Bishop's Gate and there he had loosed sixteen arrows at a straw-filled sack hanging from a dead tree a hundred and fifty paces away. He had loosed very fast, scarce time for a man to count to five between each shaft, and twelve of his sixteen arrows had slashed into the sack while the other four had just grazed it. "You'll do," Henry of Calais had said grudgingly when he was told of the feat.

The silver went before Hook had left London. He had never been so lonely or so far from his home village and so his coins went on ale, tavern whores, and on a pair of tall boots that fell apart long before he reached Soissons. He had seen the sea for the first time on that journey, and he had scarce believed what he saw, and he still sometimes tried to remember what it looked like. He imagined a lake in his head, only a lake that never ended and was angrier than any water he had ever seen before. He had traveled with twelve other archers and they had been met in Calais by a dozen men-at-arms who wore the livery of Burgundy and Hook remembered thinking they must be English because the yellow lilies on their coats were like those he had seen on the king's men in London, but these men-at-arms spoke a strange tongue that neither Hook nor his companions understood. After that they had walked all the way to Soissons because there was no money to buy the horses that every archer expected to receive from his lord in England. Two horse-drawn carts had accompanied their march, the carts loaded with spare bowstaves and thick, rattling sheaves of arrows.

They were a strange group of archers. Some were old men, a few limped from ancient wounds, and most were drunkards.

"I scrape the barrel," Henry of Calais had told Hook before they had left England, "but you look fresh, boy. So what did you do wrong?"

"Wrong?"

"You're here, aren't you? Are you outlaw?"

Hook nodded. "I think so."

"Think so! You either are or you aren't. So what did you do wrong?"

"I hit a priest."

"You did?" Henry, a stout man with a bitter, closed face and a bald head, had looked interested for a moment, then shrugged. "You want to be careful about the church these days, boy. The black crows are in a burning mood. So is the king. Tough little bastard, our Henry. Have you ever seen him?"

"Once," Hook said.

"See that scar on his face? Took an arrow there, smack in the cheek and it didn't kill him! And ever since he's been convinced that God is his best friend and now he's set on burning God's enemies. Right, tomorrow you're going to help fetch arrows from the Tower, then you'll sail to Calais."

And so Nicholas Hook, outlaw and archer, had traveled to Soissons where he wore the jagged red cross of Burgundy and walked the high city wall. He was part of an English contingent hired by the Duke of Burgundy and commanded by a supercilious man-at-arms named Sir Roger Pallaire. Hook rarely saw Pallaire, taking his orders instead from a centenar named Smithson who spent his time in a tavern called L'Oie, the Goose. "They all hate us," Smithson had greeted his newest troops, "so don't walk the city at night on your own. Not unless you want a knife in your back."

The garrison was Burgundian, but the citizens of Soissons were loyal to their imbecile king, Charles VI of France. Hook, even after three months in the fortress-city, still did not understand why the Burgundians and the French so loathed each other, for they seemed indistinguishable to him. They spoke the same language and, he was told, the Duke of Burgundy was not only the mad king's cousin, but also father-in-law to the French dauphin. "Family quarrel, lad," John Wilkinson told him, "worst kind of quarrel there is."

Agincourt. Copyright © by Bernard Cornwell. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 201 )
Rating Distribution

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(92)

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(79)

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(22)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 201 Customer Reviews
  • Posted August 29, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    If you love historical fiction...

    For me, this book started a little slow at first, as the author establishes the characters and sets up the history of each. But as the story continues and then reaches it's climactic battles, the story really picks up and it involves you, it puts you in the middle of the fight! The author has well researched this era and time, with the fine descriptions of the weapons, the characters, the places, even the clothing! He literally puts you right next to the main character (Hook) and allows you to experience as he experiences his part of the 100 year war. He describes Henry V not as Shakespeare did but as a man, with shortcomings and talents that all men have. You can hear, smell, see the battle and the massacre to come. Great book, Highly recommended!

    7 out of 8 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 31, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    Great read

    I have read most of the books written by Cornwell. This is a great companion to the archer series. One of his very best!

    5 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 1, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Pretty good, but not great

    Let me say straight off that I believe Cornwell is a talented author. His writing flows and moves the reader along at a brisk pace. Agincourt takes us back to one of the most famous battles in English history, one that many readers know nothing about outside of Shakespeare. The one downfall (to me) is that the characters in the story are fairly cookie cutter. Let's see, we have the bluff man of the cloth with a heart of gold, the corrupt priest, the hard fighting commanding officer, the usual assortment of soldier/buddies, a brother who is so good that he is almost saintly, and a couple of one note enemies after the hero. Yep- all there. But to his credit, Cornwell manages to breathe life into each of these characters.The story moves rapidly for a 400+ page book, but it could have been about 50 pages tighter. After the 7th or 8th time of telling us how much the encampment stinks because of dysentary and the 4th or 5th poor soul who gets blown away "in a red mist" by a cannon shot- we get the point. Some tighter editing would have reduced the redundancies and made for an even more thrilling last 100 pages.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 2, 2009

    Agincourt

    This is the first book I've read by Mr. Cornwell. I've felt the writing was ok, nothing spectacular. The main character for me was a little underwhelming side and I didn't get that, can't put it down feeling, that I have had reading historical novels written by other writers.
    Don't misunderstand, I did like the book and it was a good read and believable but I didn't find myself able to get as "involved" as I have with others of a similar vein.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 6, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Bernard Cornwell fans will not be disappointed!

    This story follows the real life events of King Henry V at the battle of Agincourt most well known from the Shakespeare play, Henry V. The story is told from the point of view of an archer in Henry's army. It is very well written with excellent characters and as usual for Cornwell, meticulously researched. If you like Bernard Cornwell's books, or if you like historical fiction, this is a must.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 1, 2009

    Another great tale by Bernard Cornwell

    I only been a Cronwell fan for a few years, but I can't get enough of his books. They are dramatic, they have great charactors and I feel like I'm learning a little quite a bit about medieval times. I would highly recommend this book for any fan of European-based historical fiction.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted November 8, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Great Book

    This was the first Bernard Cornwell book that I read and will not be the last. I was an easy read that I could not put down. Great book if you like this part of history.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 6, 2009

    Compelling characters and fascinating story

    I bought the CD version of the book (unabridged) to pass the time while driving, and soon found myself looking for excuses to drive the car just to listen, as the story and characters were so fascinating. Even though there is some debate as to the strict accuracy of the events of that time in recorded history, you soon find yourself completely immersed in the circumstances as narrated in this novel, and feeling the joys, heartaches, successes, failures, pain and suffering, trials and tribulations, and enumerable other emotions experienced by the characters within this book. They became such living, breathing people that you could not wait to rejoin them in their daily struggles for survival and ultimate success. An excellent read well worth the time and money.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 29, 2009

    Engrossing!

    This audio book is very well done with the narrator Charles Keating,doing a spectacular job performing the different characters. It is an engrossing historical story which makes one want to get back into the car to continue on (or wherever you are listening). It was a violent time which is experienced and seen by the main character Nick Hook. Agincourt" makes history real, having characters portray their personal feelings and attitudes about what is happening at the time and the author very cleverly uses the significance of the battle date in his storyline. A story of survival and an excellent reflection back into time making the reader realize we face the same human conditions both good and bad no matter what the era.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 23, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    Very good

    Shakespeare's Henry V has interested me for many years. This book is superb background for his play. The day after I finished Agincourt, I saw the Kenneth Branagh film of Henry V. A great deal of Branagh's film, especially the settings, matched the book. The dialogue matched Shakespeare's play, with few exceptions. They complemented each other very well, making both the book and the film more enjoyable.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 19, 2009

    Excellent Read

    Bernard Cornwell is a brilliant author, and an exceptional storyteller. The plot of the book is fast-paced and the characters well-developed. I highly recommend it for fans of historical fiction, particularly those who enjoy medieval tales. Highly enjoyable, and a compelling story

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 13, 2009

    An interesting insight into a time most of us know little about.

    This was an engaging tour of adventure, intrigue and personal inter-relationships. It also unveiled some history of a time that is pretty murky for most of us. The book not only opened doors into an arcane period of our history, it gave some interesting insights into how people lived, the relationships between ordinary people and those in charge and included a good picture of the intriques that took place as various would-be leaders jockeyed for power and position. It also delineated the willingness of many, who held land and also the fate of those who lived under their rule in their hands, to follow the shifting winds of power. I would recommend this book to anyone who wanted to escape into another time and yet be entertained with a heart-catching story.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 27, 2009

    Fast paced. Enjoyable.

    I enjoyed Ken Follett's Pillars of the Earth and World Without End so much that I went looking for something similar. Agincourt did not disappoint. I have since went back looking for more by Bernard Cornwell and will be starting another soon.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 7, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    back to the 100 years war

    Cornwell has succeeded admirably in taking on one of the most famous battles in history. His attention to detail brings the era alive in all it's grimness and excitement. Having very much enjoyed his grail quest trilogy, this was a nice trip back to the 100 years war. Another superb effort from the master of historical fiction!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 17, 2014

    Great!

    5 stars

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 5, 2014

    Bloody Exciting!

    This historical fiction novel allows readers to see the 100 Years War through the eyes on Nick Hook, one of Henry V's famed and feared longbowmen. It is exciting, bloody, violent and mesmerizing. You can almost hear the battlecries and the bowstrings as you follow Cornwell's hero through the thick of the fighting. The closest comparison I can think of is the movie BRAVEHEART. I'm not saying the plots or characters are at all similar, but their portrayals of battle are similar, as is the level of excitement. Sometimes Nick's actions are a little fantastic. Things can get gorey and crude. For me, none of those things really detracted from the book. The history was fascinating, the characters were wonderful, and the end left my head spinning. A great book!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 14, 2013

    Agincourt by Bernard Cornell

    1414, 100 years war. Nicolas Hook is an English Archer, he survives the sack of Siossons as he helplessly watches his fellow archer's bow fingers cut off, castrated, and eyeballs gouged out. This is the fate of the english archer so hated by all enemies, no ransoms. Great storyline -the finale is the battle of Agincourt in which Nick must face 30,000 frenchmen to the english 6,000.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 20, 2013

    Historical fiction at its best

    I have read a half dozen Cromwell novels, and they do not disapoint. The Noble warrior Protaganist tend to blend together, but I always come away with a better appreciation of the time period.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 17, 2013

    Ok but very graphic

    I enjoyed several of Cornwell's Sharpe series but this one not so much. I enjoy military historical fiction and this was a view into medieval warfare, but this novel could have done with a little less graphic and excruciatingly detailed descriptions of rape, murder, eye-gouging, killing and did I mention rape? Ugh. I expect some of that in this kind of book but this one was over the top. I think I'm done with Cornwell novels.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 16, 2013

    Highly recommended if interested in historical fiction!

    This was one of the first historical fiction books I have read. This has gotten me hooked on the genre. (This focuses specifically focuses on the 1415 battle of Agincourt). Because the main character is faced with difficult decisions time and time again, it instantly grabs the reader's attention and forces them to keep flipping the pages.

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