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Literature / Azincourt

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Azincourt is a Historical Fiction novel written by Bernard Cornwell. Essentially William Shakespeare's Henry V written as a Lower-Deck Episode, the story follows Anti-Hero Nicholas Hook, a common-born English archer fighting in The Hundred Years War against France.

Forced into military service after being declared an outlaw, Hook soon experiences seemingly divine messages from the Saints Crispin and Crispinian after surviving the terrible siege and sacking of Soissons.

Recruited into the army of King Henry V in his campaigns to take the throne of France, Hook encounters tremendous dangers and cruel foes, both amongst the French and amongst his own fellows...


Tropes present in the novel include:

  • Anti-Hero: Nick Hook, who at the outset of the book attempts to murder one of his neighbors as part of a blood-feud, had an affair with another man's wife, and at one point kills a defenseless enemy because the voice in his head told him to. He is still genuinely religious, courageous in his lord's service, and prone to sticking his neck out for women in need.
  • Armor Is Useless: Averted with the extremely durable Milanese plate worn by the French at Agincourt.
  • Bloodier and Gorier: Probably one of Cornwell's most violent novels to date.
  • Boisterous Bruiser: Sir John Cornewaille is a passionate warrior who loves to fight.
  • Cruel and Unusual Death: The French really, really hate the English longbowmen, and at Soissons, they go out of their way to prove it.
  • God Was My Copilot: Hook thinks he hears the patron saints of Soissons, Crispin and Crispinian, in his head.
  • Groin Attack: Father Martin receives one...from a crossbow.
  • Heroes Prefer Swords: During the final battle, Henry wields a sword despite a mace or poleaxe being more effective against plate armour, as he considers the sword a heroic weapon.
  • Historical Domain Character: There actually was an archer named Nicholas Hook at Agincourt, though we don't know anything about him beyond his name.
  • Rain of Arrows: The Battle of Agincourt is the centrepiece of the book's final act, so this trope is most definitely in effect.
  • Rescue Romance: Hook saves a young nun named Melisande from being raped by an English traitor when the French sack Soissons. They become lovers during their subsequent escape, and get married before the titular battle.
  • Shout-Out: There is a nod to Thomas of Hookton, protagonist of The Grail Quest series, establishing he is in the same fictional universe.
  • Undying Loyalty: Sir John is endlessly loyal to the King, and will not hesitate to unleash all hell on anyone who threatens or hurts one of his men.