cover image Essex Dogs

Essex Dogs

Dan Jones. Viking, $28 (448p) ISBN 978-0-593-65378-4

Journalist and historian Jones (The Plantagenets) makes his fiction debut with a rousing story of the Hundred Years War, the first in a projected trilogy. It’s 1346, and veteran trooper Loveday FitzTalbot leads his 10-man mercenary band, the Essex Dogs, onto the beaches at Normandy as part of the English invasion of France. Being on the vanguard of the 15,000-strong invasion force, the Dogs are first into the cities being sacked on the way to conquer Paris. During reprieves from stiff resistance, they loot churches and steal mood-elevating powders from apothecaries. Loveday and his men also find a secondary enemy in a rival warband of East Anglians, whose bloodthirsty men hound them at every turn. Finally, the heavily outnumbered English square off with the French at the battle of Crecy, with Loveday and the surviving Dogs in the thick of it. Vivid characterizations and a strain of black humor add to the pointed drama (at one point, a particularly odious fighter loses his nose on the battlefield, and all those around him are relieved when he finally faints and stops screaming). Brutal, graphic, and gory, the battle scenes viscerally hurl the reader into the heat of 14th-century combat. It’s good to know these Dogs will howl again. (Feb.)