11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
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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Initial post: 13 Oct 2008 16:08:36 BDT
Peter Symonds says:
Amen from another commited Atheist too! Actually there's a reason for this. Cornwell was fostered by a couple belong to a strange little sect of Christianity called the 'peculiar people'. I gather he didn't have a terribly pleasant upbringing which may explain why he's a little prejudiced against fundamental Christians.
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