Set in the 13th century, the story centers on a young man named Nick Hook who lives a life full of violence and revenge. As a young man in his village, he is sent to London to help the local Catholic priests to execute “heretics”. His skill as an archer is the only thing that saves him from execution himself after he hits the priest from his village in an effort to save one of the heretics from rape. This event begins Nick’s “communication” with God which will help him survive in the years ahead (very Jean d’Arc but with an English spin) in the face of Henry V’s campaign against France. It is in France that Nick meets Melisande during the seige of Soissons and begins a new relationship with the city’s local patron saints St. Crispin and St. Crispinian. For the rest of the novel, these two saints watch over both Melisande and her protector Nick.
This was an easy to follow book that depicted the 13th century superstitions and culture with well researched facts. The story focused on actual events that Cornwell shaped his story around while trying to avoid changing anything excessively. Nick’s character develops from the young, self-serving, vengeful man into a man who puts others before himself with bravery. Not unusual in such stories. Overall, it was a good fiction read for the afternoon. Not too heavy. Definitely a book to take with you when you’re in transit between school and home.