Richard's Reviews > Agincourt

Agincourt by Bernard Cornwell
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's review
May 06, 2010

really liked it
Read in May, 2010

Books about wars and battles have to do three things: 1. Match the Iliad in scope; put you unequivocally into the scene; leave you with the understanding that ultimately no good comes from wars and battles. Agincourt gets really, really close to meeting the criteria. Like the Iliad, Agincourt has memorable characters who do great deeds, and like the Iliad many of them die in the most grotesque ways, and also like the Iliad, the gods are fickle. Bernard Cornwell has the mastery to put you into the scene. This is the blood, shit, and gore of hand to hand, eyeball to eyeball combat in deep mud. It's a mess, and there's nothing glorious about it. Cornwell also writes quiet scenes with the same great mastery of his craft. I stopped about halfway through and thought how great it was to be in the hands of a superbly competent writer. And then, fiction triumphs and morality ends because Cornwell pulls some good out of the slaughter - small good to be sure, and a necessary sort of good for the author's fans, publisher, and wallet, because ultimately even the most pacifist of readers wants a good ending or the book would languish. So the question is raised, does art have to be moral? I don't know, but I'm going to hold fast and drop a star from what would otherwise be a five + star read.

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