On a winter’s day in 1413, just before Christmas, Nicholas Hook decided to commit murder.
It was a cold day. There had been a hard frost overnight and the midday sun had failed to melt the white from the grass. There was no wind so the whole world was pale, frozen and still when Hook saw Tom Perrill in the sunken lane that led from the high woods to the mill pastures.
Nick Hook, nineteen years old, moved like a ghost. He was a forester and even on a day when the slightest footfall could sound like cracking ice he moved silently. Now he went upwind of the sunken lane where Perrill had one of Lord Slayton’s draft horses harnessed to the felled trunk of an elm. Perrill was dragging the tree to the mill so he could make new blades for the water wheel. He was alone and that was unusual because Tom Perrill rarely went far from home without his brother or some other companion, and Hook had never seen Tom Perrill this far from the village without his bow slung on his shoulder.
– Bernard Cornwell, Agincourt
Not only is this a fantastic opening passage, but it begins with a great first line. In those fourteen words there is immediate conflict. By the end of the third paragraph, we have an interesting character and even more tension: Perrill is alone and Nick Hook has decided to kill him. The writing also sets the tone for the story to come. All in all, this is one of my favorites. But let me know what you think – does the opening of Agincourt have the making of a great beginning?