“Thomas’s left hand shook as he drew the bow. He was dry-mouthed, frightened. He knew he would shoot wild so he lowered his arm and released the cord’s tension. Remember, he told himself, remember everything you have ever been taught. An archer does not aim, he kills. It is all in the head, in the arms, in the eyes, and killing a man is no different from shooting a hind. Draw and loose, that was all, and that was why he had practiced for over ten years so that the act of drawing and loosing was as natural as breathing and as fluent as water flowing from a spring. Look and loose, do not think. Draw the string and let God guide the arrow.”
In The Archer’s Tale, set in the 14th century, we meet Thomas, a young man who studies to be a priest, but has a desire to be an archer. When his village is attacked and sacked he escapes and uses his skills to bring a few attackers down. He is alone and decides to use his archery skills to fight for the King of England against the French.
“Thomas had discovered he had a skill for killing. It was not just that he was a good archer—the army was full of men who were as good as he and there was a handful who were better—but he had discovered he could sense what the enemy was doing. He would watch them, watch their eyes, see where they were looking, and as often as not he anticipated an enemy move and was ready to greet it with an arrow. It was like a game, but one where he knew the rules and they did not.”
The English army’s long-bowman were feared by their enemies. They kill from a great distance. They possess great skill. They are hated. When one is captured the enemy take great care to ensure a slow and painful death for the archer. This story follows Thomas as he fights against the French, seeks the artifact that was stolen from his village, pursues the woman he thinks he loves, and tries to survive against enemies both on his side and on the French side.
I enjoyed the romp through the middle ages in the book, though it is generally a prelude for the next in the series.