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197 of 202 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Adventure history at its best
It probably comes as no suprise to anyone who saw Bernard Cornwell's glowing comments on the front of Juliet Barker's excellent history book 'Agincourt', that Cornwell turned his attention Henry V's famous, almost miraculous, victory over the French. The problem is how to make such an extraordinarily well known story - thanks to Shakespeare and numerous histories - seem...
Published on 10 Oct 2008 by wolf

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25 of 30 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Great read - but owes a lot to Juliet Barker
I agree with the other reviewers that this is a great read but does at times feel a bit 'samey' (if you've read a lot of his other books.) Had I not read Juliet Barkers excellent book Agincourt, I'd have given the story 4 stars but this really feels like a dramatic version of that book. Cornwall to his credit does acknowledge this. In the Arthur chronicles (by far his...
Published on 25 Oct 2008 by Jeremy


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197 of 202 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Adventure history at its best, 10 Oct 2008
By 
wolf (East Midlands, UK) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)   
This review is from: Azincourt (Hardcover)
It probably comes as no suprise to anyone who saw Bernard Cornwell's glowing comments on the front of Juliet Barker's excellent history book 'Agincourt', that Cornwell turned his attention Henry V's famous, almost miraculous, victory over the French. The problem is how to make such an extraordinarily well known story - thanks to Shakespeare and numerous histories - seem fresh and exciting. Thankfully, we are in the hands of a master at this sort of thing.

His story of Nick Hook, an English longbowman, does more than simply tick the expected boxes. It successfully puts the victory at Agincourt into perspective both politically and socially. It does so by bringing us firmly into the lives of the people. These people realised as properly medieval men and women. Cornwell scores over so many of his competitors by convincing us that these are not simply modern men in fancy dress. Faith in Christianity, for example, and the battle between the heretical Lollard beliefs, common in England at the time, and the Church are woven into the fabric of the story. It will come as no suprise that the battle scenes are strongly and convincingly portrayed.

I always hesitate before giving a five star review, but this is certainly worth it.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Azincourt by Bernard Cornwell, 9 Feb 2009
By 
A. Snook "AS" (West Sussex, England) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Agincourt (Paperback)
I bought this book abroad recently while nursing a winter-sports injury and couldn't put it down. It is excellent dramatised history, bringing the reader right into the campaign and battle and the minds of the people who were there. As an ex-soldier I immediately identified with the way he conveys soldiers' thoughts and reactions when they face unpleasant realities. It has sparked a great interest to know more about Agincourt (I have bought Juliet Barker's book on the battle), and about Henry V's real reasons for undertaking this risky business. Highly recommended.
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59 of 66 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fabulous, 10 Oct 2008
This review is from: Azincourt (Hardcover)
I've been a fan of Cornwell's for some years now and have read everything he's done, in the past I have found his one off story's lack the sheer brilliance of his books that are part of a series. Azincourt however is, in my opinion, the best novel Cornwell has as yet produced, it's simply awsome. There are some aspects here that just shouldn't work (mainly the bits with God and the Saints) but Mr C pulls it off without leaving the reader thinking 'yeah right like that'd happen'.

I read this in 2 days flat, it's the very best book I have read in a long time, I implore you to buy this book, you will not be disappointed.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Convincingly real, 13 Oct 2008
By 
Glenn Ensor (Folkestone, UK) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Azincourt (Hardcover)
The heaps of praise this outstanding novel is getting here (with sales to match, I understand) is thoroughly deserved. I have no wish to repeat the plaudits and plot descriptions already offered, but thought it worth sharing my opinion that this is the best work Bernard Cornwell has produced since his utterly engrossing Arthurian trilogy "The Warlord Chronicles" which appeared well over a decade ago.

What made those three books so captivating was the reimagining of an enchanted legend and the placement of that legend into both a historical context and into an atmosphere which seemed convincingly realistic. Plus, of course, an unputdownable narrative momentum, a Cornwell trademark.

Given the greater amount of recorded historical detail available to Cornwell here, a reimagining is less necessary. So, the author focuses on putting the reader right into the heart of the action, the fears, smells, sounds, prejudices, superstitions, heroism and malevolence of an age in which we should all be glad we didn't live. With the exception of the obligatory malevolent monk (Sir Martin, who's complete lack of any single redeeming feature makes him somewhat cartoonish to my mind) all the characters are well fleshed out and their motivations and actions seem believable and authentic.

Finally, the spiritual part of the novel, Nicholas Hook's "relationship" with Saints Crispin and Crispinian, is beautifully handled and makes deft use of a historical coincidence I was unaware of. In fact, Christianity per se is handled very well in this story - given the historical setting, there's simply no avoiding it. However, where one may have left "The Warlord Chronicles" or even Cornwell's ongoing retelling of King Alfred's history with the impression that the author really has very little time for Chrisianity, I left this one with a more refined view. He simply doesn't like hypocritical self serving "Christians" very much.

Even this atheist can say a committed "Amen" to that.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A solid historical adventure, 3 July 2011
By 
A. Whitehead "Werthead" (Colchester, Essex United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (TOP 500 REVIEWER)    (REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Azincourt (Paperback)
England, 1414. Nicholas Hook is a forester and archer involved in a bitter feud with a rival family, the Perrils. The feud eventually sees Hook declared an outlaw, and he flees to France to fight as a mercenary. He is at Soissons when the French retake the city from the Burgundians and brutally sack it in such a violent manner that all of Europe is shocked. Back in England, King Henry V means to pursue his claim to the French throne. Using Soissons as a demonstration of French brutality to inflame his troops (now including Hook), he embarks on the siege of Harfleur. But the French refuse to give battle, forcing Henry to march up the coast...and a confrontation with the vastly larger French army at wooded vale called Azincourt.

Azincourt (Agincourt is the English rendition of the name) is a historical novel depicting the epic Battle of Agincourt, regarded as an important turning point in the Hundred Years' War and the development of medieval warfare, with the supremacy of the English longbow confirmed (though, arguably, battles such as Crecy established this many years earlier). Surprisingly, it's the first English-language depiction of the battle in a novel in a century.

Bernard Cornwell is the go-to guy if you want rousing and entertaining military history. His works stretch from the fun Sharpe series to the far darker, deeper and more compelling Warlord Chronicles trilogy (his excellent take on the Arthurian legend). Azincourt, a stand-alone, falls somewhere between the two extremes.

The book is well-researched, and in an afterword Cornwell acknowledges some problems with clashing historical accounts of the battle, including recent suggestions that the numbers of British and French troops at the battle were much closer to parity than previously thought. In the end, Cornwell has elected to use the 'classic' figures of 9,000 British (mostly archers) versus 30,000 French to give the battle the lopsided feel that so inspired Shakespeare. The battle itself takes up the last quarter of the novel, with Cornwell also paying a lot of attention to the preceding campaign (the frustrating siege of Harfleur is described in some detail, as well as Henry's raising of the army and the battle between Burgundy and France the preceding year over Soissons). From a military perspective, the action is compelling and described vividly. Cornwell also sprinkles in some nice period detail, such as the fact that the Welshmen in the army constantly grumbled about being called 'English', as they had been fighting the English only a few years earlier.

Characterisation is reasonable, with Nicholas Hook being an interesting protagonist, and somewhat shadier than a lot of Cornwell's heroic protagonists. Where the book stumbles a bit is that Nicholas starts experiencing religious visions a short way into the book and becomes convinced that God is talking to him through visions of Saint Crispin and Crispinian. Whilst there are hints that this might be just Hook using these visions as a psychological took to galvanize him into action, generally the visions are accepted at face value (even by other characters that Hook confides in) and are used to get Hook out of some scrapes and dangerous situations. They verge on deus ex machina territory and reduce the tension of some parts of the novel, which is a shame.

Other characters, such as the flamboyant and indefatigable Sir John Cornewaille and the French lord Lanferelle, are also excellently characterised. The sole female character of note, Melisande, is a bit more cliched though. Henry V himself also shows up several times and Cornwell depicts him as a religious man who holds that God has a plan for him he must follow whilst remaining morally superior to his enemies (in particular, Henry hangs anyone suspected of raping a nun or looting churches). This does make the infamous incident during the battle when Henry orders the prisoners executed somewhat puzzling, but then historians themselves have argued over that decision for six centuries.

Overall, Azincourt (****) is an enjoyable and solid historical adventure, its fidelity to the historical record somewhat dented by the bringing in of religious visions as an artificial plot device to drive the story forward at key moments when perhaps it wasn't necessary. But for readable, page-turning historical adventure, Cornwell delivers the goods once again. The book is out now in the UK and USA.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars another winner, 17 July 2009
By 
Mr. David Kyffin "Mr K" (England) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Azincourt (Paperback)
As always ,lots of action and research into the period. The "blood & guts" aspect very graphic that lingers a little too long in certain passages ,with Bernard's usual repetitive description,hence 4 out of 5 stars.
But the story itself is absolutely gripping,as always. The well researched run up to the battle and the battle itself ,dismiss the Laurence Olivier/Shakespear slant on the battle , which left you feeling that it was a quick hey-ho at the French ,fire your arrows and it was all over.
The main character was very reminiscent of Thomas Hook,Harlequin etc, but if you've got a good template why keep changing ( Sharpe!!)
It just goes to prove that the good Mr Cornwell can swap centuries and still make it good.
Long may he keep writing,because I have always felt cheated that C.S.Forrester didn't live longer and write more books.
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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Grail Quest Vol 4., 13 Oct 2008
This review is from: Azincourt (Hardcover)
First things first: this is probably the best book Bernard Cornwell has written in the past 5 years. Its greatest strength, but also its one weakness is that is effectively the 4th book in the Grail Quest series. To all extents and purposes the new hero Nicholas Hook is just Thomas of Hookton mark two (in fact Thomas of Hookton even gets a one line mention). You'd be hard pressed to distinguish the two and even the supporting cast are virtually identical. Nicholas is accompanied by a french girlfriend who's the daughter of a French knight and a friendly and most ungodly priest. So far, so Harlequin.

HOWEVER the reason people buy Bernard Cornwell's books isn't for the great characterisation or original plots- its for the battle scenes. Frankly no-one describes french men at arms being hacked apart with pole-axes and decimated by arrows in quite the way that Cornwell does and in this Azincourt excels. There's a shameless enjoyment to reading about any battle described by Cornwell and surely Azincourt was the ultimate battle, so he can really let rip on this one.

For me the historical notes at the back of the book are often the best bit of this sort of book. They put the novels into context, add in some detail and give Bernard Cornwell a chance to air his personal feelings. Again he excels in the back pages of this novel, making some very convincing counter arguments to some of the recent revisionist histories of Azincourt. Cornwell knows his history and makes solid assumptions when the 'truth' is less clear.

All Cornwell fans need this book on their shelf.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Top rate historical action, 27 July 2011
By 
This review is from: Azincourt (Hardcover)
AZINCOURT - Bernard Cornwell 2008

Firstly, I have always liked Mr Cornwell's stories and writing style and have faithfully collected each of his new books as published after receiving Sharpe's Gold as a gift in 1981. I really enjoyed this book, my long awaited copy arrived in 2008 whilst I was in hospital and as I was unable to read for several months, a situation far worse than my actual malady, got into my study and was overlooked until just recently.

I had thoroughly enjoyed the GRAIL QUEST trilogy, HARLEQUIN, VAGABOND and HERETIC, also set during the Hundred Years War but some 75 years earlier and Azincourt is very obviously intended to finish off the story that was started in the earlier novels. Thankfully, Mr Cornwell resisted the temptation to make his hero the son or grandson of Thomas of Hookton, although the characters have many similarities even down to the name Nicholas Hook.

A précis of the tale has been the subject of many other reviews and so I will not repeat it here, except to say that as usual Cornwell's novel is full of action and does not pull punches when describing the cruelty and carnage of medieval warfare or the duplicity and naked political greed of the Christian church at that time. As usual Mr Cornwell's research gives the story a believable grounding in historical fact and he acknowledges that much of this taken from Juliet Barker's excellent book, AGINCOURT, THE KING, THE CAMPAIGN, THE BATTLE pub.2005 probably the best and most readable academic work on the subject for some years.

Another top rate novel from Bernard Cornwell, packed with action, believable characters and historic personalities and a good story line woven around historical events.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A famous victory, 28 Sep 2009
By 
G. J. Weeks (London) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Azincourt (Paperback)
I found the start of this fine novel to be crudely violent, but it is set in a violent age. It is also one dominated by the worldview of the Roman catholic Church whose priests are seen an both their best and worst here. Henry's great conviction is that God wants him to be king of France. This conviction spurs him on to victory against all the odds and the expectation of his depleted little army. Could God be on England's side when the French believed him to be on their?. This question is addressed and given a theological answer but here Cornwell does but some 21st century new age pantheistic words into the mouth of a 15th century priest. It is also evident that the author is now without sympathy for the martyred Lollards.

The book goes from the England of a common archer, Hook. who being outlawed by kis lord, joins the army in France, besieges Harfleur and participates in Agincourt's great victory. The battle is well related in all its gore but the real strength of the book is that it educates the reader on all aspects of the longbow, England's great instrument of victory. Here you will learn all thins long bow. A great read....unless you are French.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars It is what it is - a great read!, 27 Aug 2009
This review is from: Azincourt (Paperback)
I agree with what a lot of other reviewers have written - it is closely based on Juliet Barker's book and it is similar to a lot of his other works when it comes to plot.

That said, so what? He happily admits that his research relies heavily on Barker but this is prose fiction and, like his other books, Cornwell spins a very entertaining tale based on facts. A lot of people love learning history through well-written fiction and if you are one of this number, you will probably love this. Cornwell's genius is letting you see accurately described battles from the point of view of the common soldier. You can vivdly imagine how horrendous the conditions were.

If you're the sort of person inclined to read this sort of thing, you are probably already aware of the outcome. As with most of Cornwell's stuff, it doesn't matter. You like (or loathe) the main character's and want to see what happens next. The plot will seem fairly familiar if you read a lot of his books but I personally didn't find it detrimental. I still wanted to see how it all panned out.

I loved this book and also enjoyed the fact that it is a one-off. I'm in the middle of about 5 separate series at the moment, so it was a relief not to launch into another. If you're new to Cornwell's work, this would be a great start.
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Azincourt by Bernard Cornwell (Hardcover - 1 Oct 2008)
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