________________ CM . . . . Volume XV Number 12 . . . . February 6, 2009

cover A Hail of Arrows: Jenkin Lloyd, Agincourt, France 1415. (My Story).

Michael Cox.
Toronto, ON: Scholastic Canada, 2007.
174 pp., pbk., $6.99.
ISBN 978-0-545-99040-0.

Subject Headings:
Agincourt, Battle of, Agincourt, France, 1415-Juvenile fiction.
Archers-Wales-Juvenile fiction.

Grades 4-8 / Ages 9-13.

Review by Allison McDonald.

*** /4

excerpt:

ďSo the King is to claim his birthright by force. He is now mustering a great army for that purpose. Our lord Cradok has pledged six archers to join that army. We are those six archers. In five days we will leave our village and make our way to the English county of Hampshire where we will join the Kingís army and the Welsh archers led by Davy Gam. Then we are to sail for France.Ē I cannot begin to tell you how much of a shock this news was to me. I was immediately gripped by feelings of sweaty terror and dark foreboding, but mixed with my stomach-churning fear was a sense of excitement at the great undertaking that lay before me.

And so begins the adventure of Jenkin Lloyd and his five comrades as they set out to join the army of King Henry V in his campaign to claim France as his birthright. Jenkin and his friends are simple Welsh farmers who have been trained in archery from a young age and possess incredible skill. Jenkin recounts the tale of his transition from harvesting crops to fighting for his life in a battle many miles from home. At first, Jenkin and his companions are filled with confidence that their army is superior to that of the French, and excitement at the plunder they might acquire through the spoils of war. As disease spreads through the camp and their first siege at Harfleur presents unanticipated resistance, Jenkin and his friends begin to realize they might have signed up for more than they bargained. Soon, rations begin to dwindle and friends are lost to enemies such as the dreaded bloody flux and, more swiftly, a Frenchmanís sword. On the eve of the renowned battle at Agincourt, Jenkin and the rest of the troops prepare to die the next day as their army is depleted and far outnumbered by the French. Yet, as if by a miracle, the English army and their Welsh archers vanquish the enemy, and Jenkin returns to his home, a seasoned warrior.

     The story is recounted by young Jenkin. The author presents a realistic character and a genuine voice. It feels as though he is from another time, and yet the language used is not so old fashioned that a young reader will be perturbed. The author creates a sense of authenticity with the use of Welsh names for all of Jenkinís comrades (such as Owen, Davy and Wynn), the descriptions of the harvesting activities throughout the year and the attire in which they dress. At the beginning, readers are told that Jenkin lost his father at a young age, a situation which does well to set up the archetype of the young hero who takes up his fatherís mantle to defend their land.

     The point in history in which the story takes place, during the Hundred Yearís War, provides an enticing backdrop. The reader is provided with a helpful reference in the form of a Timeline and a Historical Note; however, a glossary would have been useful for the various archery and warfare terms in order that the readers would fully understand the vernacular of the times. The vivid descriptions of each battle scene, the landscape and Jenkinís trials and tribulations paint a realistic picture for the reader. Unfortunately, at times, the descriptions feel rather long-winded and risk losing the readerís attention without the inclusion of more dialogue. The existing dialogue between Jenkin and the others is often stiff and distracting and would have benefitted from a more original approach to match the brilliant descriptions.

     This is a time in history when daily life was precarious and war was bloody and commonplace. In keeping with the reality of 15th century England, the author recounts a violent time, and Jenkin witnesses many horrors associated with war, from burning ships to the slaughtering of prisoners. The battle scenes are treated authentically, and, as such, the violence described does not appear gratuitous in the least. However, a certain maturity is required in readers in order for them to understand this aspect of history in the proper context.

     The story of Jenkin and his adventures will primarily appeal to young boys who are interested in history and historical warfare, as well as girls who share those same interests. Michael Cox provides an intriguing adventure and a means for young readers to foray into world history and further explore their interest.

Recommended.

Allison McDonald is a freelance editor and writer living in Richmond Hill, ON.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.

Published by
The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364
Hosted by the University of Manitoba.
 

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