Forced into military service after being declared an outlaw by a corrupt priest, 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, though by the standards of a Cornwell protagonist he's fairly tame.
- Armor Is Useless: Thoroughly averted, particularly 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, and considering the body of his work, that's saying something.
- Corrupt Church: As per usual for Cornwell's writings. Even beyond the sadistic and perverse Father Martin (whose actual Biblical knowledge is pretty scant), the Church is generally presented as self-serving, tyrannical and at best negligent toward the people.
- 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 his eventual lover and future wife, Melisande, from being raped when the French sack Soissons.
- 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.