I don't mean to be sexist, but this really was a 'guy read' ... and I wouldn't have stuck with it were I not a geek for history. This was no romantic 'chick lit' take on the chivalrous Medieval period when kings fought over thrones and crowns during the summer months and wooed their ladies fair during the winter months. This take on Henry V's seige of Harfleur and subsequent retreat toward Calais with the decisive battle at Agincourt is all class warfare, spewing guts, religious decadence face-to-face with extreme piety, blood spatters and battle atrocities, and poor simple folk being caught up in the ranks of kings and nobles and fighting to make it home to their simple lives.
Nick Hook,our protagonist, is a simple British forester working with his bow to keep poachers off the lands of Lord Slayton. His family holds hard feelings towards the Perrills, another local clan - a long-standing feud. One day, Nick decides to settle things with a blood-for-blood vengeful act against his enemies. When he is caught and reported to his noble employer, Nick is branded an outlaw and banished to London and the military command of Sir Edward Derwent. There, he gets into further trouble when he strikes a corrupt priest that has raped a young religious dessenter before ordering her murder. Poor Nick ... he is set for hanging when he is once again pulled from the fray by Lord Slayton and sent to France to fight the French in Henry V's on-going battle for the French throne.
Of course, the evil brothers Perrill and Sir Martin, the corrupt priest follow along further into the story and the family feud is interwoven throughout the historic story of Henry V and his military campaign. The story moves right along and Bernard Cornwell weaves intricate details of the lives and craft of the British archers and the back story of the politics of 15th century Europe. This is certainly way more detail than I learned in my World History classes ... and it's certainly way more rollicking a take on the story.
I may brave another of Cornwell's historical novels, but first, I think I need a break - some light and fluffy read to soak up the blood spatter and clear away the memories of severed limbs, bashed skulls, and political intrigue in the name of God and country.