Thursday, October 8, 2009

Cimmerian sighting: Reveling in the slaughter of Agincourt

Bernard Cornwell’s Agincourt (2009, HarperCollins Publishers) does not tell the story of a battle, but rather of a terrible red butchery. Englishmen poleaxing French men-at-arms like cattle. Nobles, men of dignity and fine lineage and status, lying kicking in the mud, screaming, as low-born archers pried open their visors and thrust daggers through their eyes and into their brain. Gruesome stuff.

True, Agincourt was a great victory for the English in the Hundred Years’ War, one that has resounded through the ages. The events of October 25, 1415 are an incredible tale of a few (6,000 English soldiers) prevailing against many (an estimated 30,000 French knights and men-at-arms). The battle has gained additional resonance by Shakespeare’s magnificent play Henry V. But its actual events were not glorious.

In other words, it’s a tale that historical fiction writer extraordinaire Bernard Cornwell was born to tell. And tell the story he does, quite faithfully and well, although it does come off as a bit formulaic.

To read the rest of this post, visit The Cimmerian Web site .

6 comments:

mhensley said...

Yep, this was an awesome book and together with his Grail Quest books, give you all you need to know about longbows and the hundred years wars. And I can't wait for the next Saxon novel to come out later this year.

Brian Murphy said...

Dude, the next Saxon novel is due out this year? Awesome news, I hadn't heard. The Warlord Trilogy is still my favorite, but the Saxon Stories are a close second, and moving up fast.

Badelaire said...

So has this book landed on US shelves, or did you have to order it through a UK press?

Brian Murphy said...

I got it out of my local public library, so it's definitely out in the U.S.

Jack Landers said...

Is there really enough record of the details to provide fodder for the kid of accurate portrayal that one expects from Bernard Cornwell? The histories I've read seemed to have a lot of gaps that aren't going to get filled without time travel.

Brian Murphy said...

Hi Jack, Cornwell drew from a lot of sources, but primarily used three histories (Agincourt: A New History, Agincourt, and The Face of Battle) to write the book. Apparently there are some good existing records of the battle. We also know more about medieval arms and armor these days and Cornwell seems to have drawn on this research when portraying the penetrative power of the English longbow and the protective qualities of plate and mail armor.