Written by Bernard Cornwell
Review by Ray Taylor

When Bernard Cornwell makes his appearance at our conference in London, his latest novel will have just been published. For those lucky enough to have already read it, there may be opportunities to discuss it with him. For others their appetites will no doubt be whetted.

The legions of Cornwell’s fans, however, will need little encouragement to devour this latest instalment in the Hundred Years War sequence. Everything you expect of a Cornwell offering is here in abundance: interesting characters, rich historical detail, thrilling battles, war, violence, gore, heroism, wry humour – this time spiced with the appearance of la Malice, the relic sword attributed to St Peter which is deemed to give its owner special powers.

Thomas of Hookton, alias le Bâtard, once again plays a major role in the action along with Edward, Prince of Wales, known to later history as the Black Prince. The culmination of the novel is the Battle of Poitiers, an extraordinary victory for the English. They were heavily outnumbered, hungry, thirsty and worn out from travel yet managed to succeed over the French and even capture their King Jean. The English longbow archers, with their renowned strength and skill, displayed their prowess as they would do again at Agincourt nearly 60 years later.

Bernard Cornwell has said that he does not think Poitiers has received the recognition it deserves and that Crecy and Agincourt are better known by those interested in this period. This novel will go a long way in redressing that balance and does so in an exciting and stimulating way. Highly recommended.