This was my first Bernard Cornwell novel and I picked it up because I wanted to learn about the historical background of the Battle of Azincourt, one of the significant battles in the Hundred Years' War, and about Henry V of England. When I closed the book, I was a little disappointed at the dearth of historical details relating to the ultimate and proximate causes that led to the battle, and the character of Henry V still seemed somewhat blurry in my head.
In the sweltering summer of 1415, the English army, having crossed the channel, engaged in the siege of Harfleur (in Normandy), which ended in a hard-won English victory. This prelude is followed by the English march north towards Calais (English-occupied). Then in the rainy and gloomy month of October, the English army had to face off with the far-outnumbering French army waiting in the muddy field of Azincourt in Picardy. The battle scenes are vividly drawn, with lots of gore, savagery, horror and obscenities (and feces too). Descriptions about armor, weapons and archery, in particular the usage of longbows, are expertly detailed. But some episodes as well as the ending of the novel come across as a bit cliched.
I did come away with a better understanding of why the English and the French hated each other's guts for so long.