The Hundred years war between England and France is in full flow and armies and groups of mercenaries are bringing death, disease and suffering to the people of France. One such group is lead by the English archer Sir Thomas Hookton. Known as La batard and leading the feared Hellequin, this group brings death and destruction to the enemies of England.
When his Lord, the Earl of Northampton charges him with finding the mythical lost sword of St Peter, Thomas know he must find it first for whoever holds the sword is said to be certain of victory.
Thomas isn’t the only person looking for the sword, the French king is desperate to destroy the English armies ravaging his lands and a power hungry Churchman craves it in his bid for the Papal throne.
As Thomas is pursued across France by vengeful French nobles and a wrathful church he is pushed ever closer to a small village in Northern France called Poitiers.
Here, he will meet up with the army of the Prince of Wales and he will take part in one of the most climactic battles of the era.
If he survives can he recover the Sword of St Peter and defeat his enemies who are closing in on him?
I think most people would agree that Bernard Cornwell is one, if not the greatest historical fiction writers there is. His Sharpe books opened up the publishing worlds eyes to the mass appeal of historical fiction and his Warlord series stand the test of time as some of the best writing out there.
I have been a fan of his for many years but have to confess to being a bit underwhelmed by the last few books he has produced. The Fort in particular was a very poor book and some of the later Sharpe book were on the weak side but I’m very pleased to say that 1365 is right up there with his very best.
He has brought to life the terror and the anarchy of 14th Century France as competing armies ravage the countryside and even French nobles war on each other. The author has captured the savagery of the time and the cheapness of life as hunger and disease compete with violence as the top killer.
As with any book based in the 14th century, religion plays a big part in the book. From ambitious and grasping Churchmen to the lure of supposed relics it shows how much religion played in the lives of people.
The highlight of the book is the battle of Poitiers. Bernard Cornwell is the absolute master of describing a battle and he doesn’t fail to deliver here. The scene when the French Knights charge the English lines and the sheer brutality of hand to hand combat that follows is exquisitely written. I also liked how he captured the intense hatred the French had for the English and Welsh archers who caused so much damage.
This is a brilliant book and really brings to life the 100 years war, highly recommended!