by Bernard Cornwell
audio book: 16.25 hours
The plot according to Amazon.com:
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.I hate to say it, but this book was just "meh" .... I wanted so badly to love it but I really couldn't get into it. Last month I wrote about my need for a personal connection when I'm reading epic historical fiction - that connection was lacking here. The story was really about the war and the way it led up to this particular battle, and the characters were simply vehicles to get the reader there. That isn't necessarily a bad thing but it didn't really work for me.
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.
Imagine this: you're going to Disney World and there are two buses you can take there. One is the Disney Express Bus - colorful themed decorations, fun movies to enjoy, lots of happy chatting people. The other is a Greyhound bus - drab colors, snoring passengers, not much conversation. Both take you to the same destination but the process of getting there will be very different depending on which bus you choose.
In this case the destination, the battle of Agincourt, is fascinating and well worth reading about, but getting there was rather boring, like choosing the Greyhound bus. I liked the main characters but I didn't really get to know them that well and I never felt connected to them. It was like riding on the drab bus with interesting people a few rows up but never getting the chance to get to know them.
I should also add that there is a great deal of bad language in this book and lots of graphic violence. Both fit the theme of the book though so it didn't bother me as much as it would have in other books ... but you can't say I didn't warn you.
A quick note about the audio version - the narrator was Charles Keating and he did a great job. He was able to convey several different voices and handled the French phrases smoothly.
At this point I'm going to limit my Bernard Cornwell reading to his Saxon Chronicles series. I absolutely love those books and can't wait for the next one to come out. I won't be looking for any of his other books though.