The Grail Quest (3) - Heretic

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9780007174102: The Grail Quest (3) - Heretic

The eagerly anticipated follow-up to the number one bestseller Vagabond, this is the third instalment in Bernard Cornwell's Grail Quest series.

In 1347 the English capture Calais and the war with France is suspended by a truce.
But for Thomas of Hookton, the hero of Harlequin and Vagabond, there is no end to the fighting. He is pursuing the grail, the most sacred of Christendom's relics, and is sent to his ancestral homeland, Gascony, to engineer a confrontation with his deadliest enemy, Guy Vexille.

Once in the south country Thomas becomes a raider, leading his archers in savage forays that will draw his enemy to his arrows. But then his fortunes change. Thomas becomes the hunted as his campaign is destroyed by the church. With only one companion, a girl condemned to burn as a heretic, Thomas goes to the valley of Astarac where he believes the grail was once hidden and might still be concealed, and there he plays a deadly game of hide and seek with an overwhelming enemy.

Then, just as Thomas succeeds in meeting his enemy face to face, fate intervenes as the deadliest plague in the history of mankind erupts into Europe. What had been a landscape of castles, monasteries, vineyards and villages, becomes death's kingdom and the need for the grail, as a sign of God's favour, is more urgent than ever.

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Heretic is the third book in Bernard Cornwell's much-acclaimed Grail Quest series, a series that many were initially cautious about because it represented something of a change of pace for the master historical novelist. But Cornwell quickly demonstrated that this period of history was well within his remit, and the sequence has proved to be among his most mesmerising work.

Heretic begins with a bloody battle outside Calais in 1347, a short time before the city fell to the English. The sympathetic Thomas of Hookton is bending every sinew at the service of his master, the Earl of Northampton; after risking his life time and again, Thomas finds himself commissioned to track down the most sacred relic in Christendom, the Holy Grail. He travels to Gascony, seat of power of his nemesis, Guy Vexille. Utilising his archers, Thomas conducts a fierce guerrilla war against Vexille, and yearns for a face-to-face encounter. But then Thomas is routed and finds his campaign in shreds, facing the twin enemies of the church and the plague.

In this third book, Bernard Cornwell ups the ante in every sense: along with the splendidly realised battle scenes (a Cornwell trademark), the evocation of the Middle Ages is more crowded and bustling than one might have thought possible without subsuming the protagonists. But most of all, it's the character of Thomas that powers the narrative; having his hero fall in love (sensitively handled here) sets off the ultimate conflict with his mortal enemy perfectly. Leave the 21st century behind and venture into a dark and foreign era--it's a journey you won't regret. --Barry Forshaw


Praise for Bernard Cornwell and the Grail Quest series:

'It is all spectacular, rattling good stuff: war and torture; love, lust and loss.' The Times

‘What a very fine writer Mr Cornwell has become.’ Economist

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