Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Review by JD: The Archer’s Tale by Bernard Cornwell

51MVTQ2CT9L._SL160_ Book Stats:

  • The Archer’s Tale
  • by Bernard Cornwell
  • ISBN: 0-06-621084-4
  • Pages 374: hardbound
  • HarperCollins, 2001
  • Genre: Historical Fiction

JD’s Thoughts:

I try to spread my reading around a bit across different genres and authors, but this was my second Bernard Cornwell book in six weeks; and I’m enjoying it! (A big thanks to Charlie at professor b. worm for initially turning me on to Cornwell).

Looking back to my review of the first one I read, which was Agincourt, I could almost cut-and-paste the same words. The story is set during the same war, the underlying themes are much the same, the cast of characters is similar, the plot progression is similar and both stories end in large set-piece battles which faithfully reconstruct actual events from medieval history. In truth, the books are kind of carbon copies of each other. Having said all that, it didn’t spoil the read for me at all.

Cornwell creates some strong characters and writes really good stories. He clearly does a lot of homework and he entwines his stories around actual historical events with lots of detail that feels very authentic.

In this case the setting is once again the Hundred Years War between the English and French. This time the story climaxes with the battle of Crecy.

It did occur to me that with a factual backdrop as amazing as this, who needs to create a fictional foundation? The facts take some beating. There is war between two countries that lasts for over a hundred years. Throughout there is political intrigue with some factions changing sides. Both sides experience a constant change of leadership, with the kings variously being warriors, timid, smart, dumb, brutal, petulant, nervous, conniving and greedy. There are some major battles which served to re-write military strategy. The much smaller armies often won the day. Kings and princes often lead their armies into battle and were on the front line of brutal action. Epic is a much over-used word, but this was truly epic stuff.

So, a fascinating history plus a strong story-teller equals a winner. I’d rate this book four stars, and as with Agincourt I’d strongly recommend this to anyone interested in historic fiction or life in medieval times, or indeed anyone who enjoys a good action read.

I now have to try and resist the temptation to read another Cornwell book for a little while.

Link to JD’s review of Agincourt.

The Archer’s Tale is the first in The Grail Quest series. The other two books are as follows:

  • Vagabond – Published 2002
  • Heretic – Published in 2003

Amazon purchasing Information for US/UK/Canada  and The Book Depository in Euros and AUD.

This book was borrowed from the local library. Yeah!

Your comments and thoughts are always welcome. Thanks for reading Layers of Thought.


Aarti said...

I admit Cornwell's books confuse me sometimes as they are set all over British history and seem sometimes to have the same sorts of titles. I have the first in his Arthurian series on my shelf. I have also read his Gallows Thief, and enjoyed it, but he didn't continue that mystery bent of his series at all. Glad you enjoyed this one!

John D said...

Hi Aarti,

Thanks for the comment. I see from your blog that you seem to have quite an interest in English history. I do too, though my interest is a bit spotty - ranging from totally fascinated to kind or bored. So much depends on the medium/teacher.

These Cornwell books aren't for everyone though I thoroughly enjoyed the two I've read so far. The Arthurian one you mentioned might be my next choice of his books to read. Good storytellers can have a field day with that material.

Charlie said...

Either I've been away for a month or you and Shellie are knocking posts out left and right!

I mentioned in my review of Agincourt that much of it sounded familiar, and of course it was from The Archer's Tale.

That said, I think that Crecy was the finest battle scene I've ever read in fiction. Cornwell does do a lot of research, but I often wonder why the maps aren't better.

A good review, John, and thanks for the shout.

John D said...

Thanks Charlie. And you are so right about the maps - I even had my Hundred Years War history book out while I was reading the novel, so I could cross reference the maps and get a better mental picture of what was happening and where. How nerdy is that - sad!

Charlie said...

I don't think using a book that had maps was nerdy at all--quite an aid, as a matter of fact.

I know a lady on LibraryThing who is a Civil War buff and she has books of maps for the same reason.

John D said...

Hi Charlie,

That makes me feel a little better!

I'll probably read a few books from other authors before I go back to Cornwell again. But I do need to think about which of his to line up. I'll probably give the Hundred Years War a break.

The Arthurian one that Aarti mentioned sounds intriguing. Have you read it? Any recommendations? Thanks,


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...