Essex Dogs

Viking. (Essex Dogs Trilogy, Bk. 1). Feb. 2023. 448p. ISBN 9780593653784. $28. F
DEBUT Fraternal camaraderie and the gritty realities of war mix in historian Jones’s (Powers and Thrones: A New History of the Middle Ages) fiction debut, which follows 10 soldiers in King Edward III’s army as they fight their way through France during the Hundred Years’ War. The novel, the first in a planned trilogy, culminates in the 1346 Battle of Crécy after taking the “Dogs” through several earlier smaller battles and skirmishes. Loveday, the grief-stricken leader of the group, discovers along the way that he’s lost his taste for the harsher parts of war, while Romford, the newest and youngest member, struggles with his own personal demons, both past and present. An unpredictable priest, a temperamental Scotsman, and several archers help round out the group. Jones brings his trained historian’s eye to his writing through detailed descriptions of armor, weaponry, and tactics, but never allows those details to bog down the thrilling, fast-paced story. Readers may hope that future books in the trilogy allow them to get to know some characters better, but Jones mostly succeeds in balancing his suspenseful action scenes with enough emotional weight to keep readers invested.
VERDICT Highly recommended for fans of Bernard Cornwell or Ken Follett who are looking for a high-stakes, immersive war story.
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