Cornwell picks a new epoch to play in and, to no one’s surprise, has a ball.
The master of the Sharpe series, the Warlord Trilogy, and Stonehenge 2000 B.C. takes his peerless storytelling to the 14th-century in the tale of Thomas of Hookton, bastard son of an eccentric priest, whose superb archery takes the hero from darkest Dorset to the pivotal battle of Crecy. Tall, handsome, and deeply uninterested in his priestly study at Oxford, Thomas has gotten himself into the usual dilemma of lads home from school for the break: there’s a local lass with a bun in the oven. But career choices and fatherhood cease to be problems when raiders from across the English Channel put the torch to the village of Hookton, raping, pillaging, cleaving, and stabbing in the fashion of the day. The pregnant girlfriend becomes a prize of war, and Thomas escapes with his life, but the raiders do in his mother and his rather mysterious father. They also make off with the greatest treasure in his father’s church, the lance of St. George. With his last breath, Father Ralph tells his son that the lance, with which the family has long been involved, is now in the hands of Thomas’s evil cousin, a leader of the raid, and he extracts from Thomas a promise to retrieve the relic. Chucking scholarship forever, the dutifully vengeful Thomas takes his bow and arrows to France to join English troops doing their own raping, pillaging, cleaving, and stabbing. He’s a natural. Not so much at the nastier parts, but he’s bright, speaks great Norman French, loves the job, and shoots straight. It’s his reconnoitering that brings the stalemated English their first victory in ages, and his arrows bring down Frenchman after Frenchman. There’s a setback when an evil knight lays him low, but Thomas gets to meet a good Jewish doctor, picks up a couple of very attractive Frenchwomen, and catches the eyes of the best British warriors.
Another top effort from one of today’s truly great storytellers. Please, oh please, let it be another series.