Grail Quest Harlequin Paperback – Aug 27 2001
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Following the phenomenal success of the Sharpe novels set in the Napoleonic Wars, Bernard Cornwell has turned his storytelling talents to another great moment in English history, the Hundred Years War between England and France throughout the 14th century. Harlequin is the first book in Cornwell's Grail Quest series, which chronicles the adventures of young Thomas of Hookton, "a big, bony, black-haired country boy". Thomas rejects the church in favour of the life of an archer in France after his village is brutally sacked by the French. The young Thomas fights back against the French with his bow, and "in that one instant, as the first arrow slid into the sky, he knew he wanted nothing more from life". He vows to seek revenge on the plains of France, and recover the holy relic of St. George stolen from his village by the sinister "harlequin" with whose destiny Thomas finds himself inextricably entwined. The rest of the action moves at a hectic pace across the violent and bloody battlefields of northern France, as Thomas falls for a beautiful French widow nicknamed "the Blackbird", makes a mortal enemy of the "poor, bitter and ambitious" Sir Simon Jekyll, and follows the ensign of King Edward III and his heroic son, the Black Prince. Harlequin is a fast-paced and graphic recreation of the Hundred Years War, despite a rather gratuitous fixation on rape and pillage. The action comes thick and fast, although it remains to be seen if Thomas of Hookton has the wit and flair of Cornwell's other great heroic creation, Richard Sharpe. --Jerry Brotton --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
From Publishers Weekly
The young archer Thomas of Hookton joins the forces of King Edward III to fight against France in Cornwell's latest, which takes place in the mid-14th century at the beginning of the Hundred Years War. Thomas, a brilliant, handsome warrior who combines physical strength and skill with the bow, survives the pillaging of his village to become an archer and then rescues a female counterpart known as the Blackbird after she's nearly raped by Sir Simon Jekyll during one of the troop's raids in France. The nobleman becomes Thomas's chief rival as Jekyll continues to pursue the Blackbird, and Thomas is finally cast out of his unit after failing to kill Jekyll in an ill-conceived assassination attempt. He recovers to join and couple with the Blackbird, making his way through France and parlaying his skills into a royal pardon even as his opportunistic partner leaves him for the libidinous Prince of Wales. The three members of Cornwell's romantic triangle eventually meet during a huge climactic battle at Crcy, where Thomas must face up to a demanding family legacy involving a quest for a special lance. Cornwell has been down this path many times before, and he's a consummate pro when it comes to plying the tried-and-true combination of heroic characters; a fast-moving, action-packed plot; and enough twists and turns to keep the narrative from lapsing into formula. He uses his historical expertise judiciously as well. This book mark the beginning of a promising new series that brings an intriguing period to life. (Oct. 9)Forecast: Cornwell, the author of the Richard Sharpe series, set during the Napoleonic Wars, has a strong and growing U.S. fan base. The Archer's Tale, already a bestseller in Britain, should strengthen his hold on the Patrick O'Brian crowd.
Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title. See all Product Description
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Top Customer Reviews
"The Archer's Tale" opens with a horrifyingly brutish assault by the French on the small village of Hookton, which protects a mighty relic through its tiny size and complete lack of importance. The relic, the black lance used by St. George to slay the Dragon, is seized by the Harlequin, and the town razed. The Harlequin also kills his uncle, an old priest with a murky past. Cornwell's description of the destruction and rape of Hookton is masterful in its economy and its clarity -- this book quickly establishes that it is not for the squeamish!
Thomas, the archer, escapes the sack of Hookton through his mastery of the bow, which is the dominant military weapon of the era (the late 1300's). Contrary to common perception, archers were not the small wimps who hung out in the rear while the mighty swordsmen and cavalry fought the battles. An archer was fantastically strong owing to years of stringing their mighty bows, and Thomas is an archer's archer. He vows revenge on the man who has brought destruction to Hookton.
Possessing more lives than a cat, Thomas journeys to France and plays a crucial role in the sack of a French village. Earning the respect, love, or hatred of those whom he encounters (he inspires strong feelings, does our Thomas), Thomas uses his wits, his skill with a bow, a good head for warfare, and just plain blind luck to journey from battle to battle, from siege to siege.
Cornwell brings the Middle Ages alive with his vivid descriptions of life in small villages as well as his depiction of the mighty French city of Caen.Read more ›
Read the novel and discover for yourself; dont take my word for the talent of Bernard Cornwell, for he is an author one should discover for themselves, and should be a household name in some years.
In Nomine Sathanas,
This story is set in England and France during the 14th century, the early beginnings of the Hundred Years War. The hero is Thomas of Hookton, bastard son of an expatriate French nobleman living in a small village along the southern coast of England. After that village is brutally attacked by French invaders and all its inhabitants, save Thomas, are killed, Thomas enlists himself as an archer in the English army of Edward III.
In his quest to recover the lance of St. George, a sacred relic stolen from Hookton's church during the attack, Thomas refines his skills in archery and battle strategy. Throughout the story, it is in fact he who conceives key attack maneuvers that gain the English under the Earl of Northampton their victories, culminating finally with the famous battle at Crecy. Along the way, he rescues a widowed French countess from wolfish English soldiers sacking her village. He nurses her through trauma and, for a while, she becomes his cohort.Read more ›
Besides being an exciting and dramatic story, Cornwell brings to life what was for me prior to this book, a vague and boring era found in high school history books. Cornwell describes knights and their squires, archers and cross-bowmen and the tactics of war. Even though vastly different than modern war, he is able to show the emotional similarities to the modern soldier and to confirm the notion that mankind really hasn't changed that much. The emotions of fear, jealousy, love and hatred remain powerful drives found at the root of most struggles. The plot, setting, character development, and dialogue are all used to bring history during the Middle Ages to life, not only the chivalry and gallantry of knighthood, but also the brutal and viscious destruction found on the primitive battlefields.
I loved this book and recommend it to anyone with a need for excitement set in a time and place unfamiliar to most of us.
Most recent customer reviews
Rollicking good tale with great battles, little ones, with the occasional love interest thrown in. Recommended for any reader who like historical novels.Published 21 months ago by Paul Gulyas
Another great historical event turned into a wonderful story. Highly recommended if you like the genre. Onto the next now then...Published on Feb. 3 2014 by Andrew Davies
I am a real fan of historical fiction and Bernard Cornwell never fails to keep me engrossed in his novels. Read morePublished on Jan. 30 2014 by Lewispat
If you enjoy entertaining medieval story telling, then this is the first of a trilogy for you. I happened upon B.C. Read morePublished on Jan. 6 2004
Having been recommended this one by a friend, I only had a week to read this before I gave it back. It didn't take a week, nor did it even take a day or two. Read morePublished on May 12 2003 by Psimitry
i found this to be better than the sharpe novels. we've got a man whose village is attacked. he swears to find and bring back a holy lance. Read morePublished on May 12 2003 by jan erik storebø
This book, like Colleen McCullough's series on the Masters of Rome, illustrates how brutal we humans can be when there is no rule of law to allow us to settle our differences by... Read morePublished on March 3 2003 by Peter L. Swinford