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Literature / Azincourt

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Azincourt is a Historical Fiction novel written by veteran novelist 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.
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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...


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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 relatively admirable by the standards of a Cornwelle protagonist, though, as he is genuinely religious, courageous in his lord's service, and prone to sticking his neck out for women in need.
  • 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.
  • Boisterous Bruiser: Sir John Cornewaille is a passionate warrior who loves to fight.
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  • 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 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.

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