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Harlequin (The Grail Quest, Book 1) Paperback – 25 Apr 2013

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Product details

  • Paperback: 496 pages
  • Publisher: Harper; Reprint edition (25 April 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0007310307
  • ISBN-13: 978-0007310302
  • Product Dimensions: 13 x 3.3 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (228 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 9,852 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Bernard Cornwell was born in London, raised in Essex, and now lives mainly in the USA with his wife. In addition to the hugely successful Sharpe novels, Bernard Cornwell is the author of the Starbuck Chronicles, the Warlord trilogy, the Grail Quest series and the Alfred series.

Product Description

Amazon Review

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 an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


‘Crackling with good deeds, fine characters and sparkling set pieces, it confirms yet again Cornwell’s reputation for masterly historical novels’ DAILY MAIL

‘It is all spectacular, rattling good stuff: war and torture; love, lust and loss’ THE TIMES

‘The battle scenes, as always, are masterful; and the vignettes of everyday living, in times of extreme hardship, have the ring of simple truth’ SUNDAY TELEGRAPH

‘A very fine writer’ ECONOMIST

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Customer Reviews

4.5 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Chorizo D'Horreur on 6 Nov 2000
Format: Hardcover
Harlequin depicts all the horror of mediaeval warfare in the same way that the Sharpe novels do for the Napoleonic era. Gone are any thoughts of chivalry and knights in brightly shining armour rescuing damsels in distress. Here is the start of the hundred years war, brutal and bloody. Once again Cornwell has done his homework (so I would guess) in creating an authentic period setting for his story following the archer Thomas of Hookton.
I really enjoyed this, perhaps not as much as the Warlord Chronicles, but it's every bit as good as Sharpe and that's high praise indeed. One criticism I do have is that the book is full of rather amazing coincidences and chance meetings, not outrageously unbelievable but if I were a betting man.....
Thomas' character did not however grow on me in quite the same way as Derfel's did, or Sharpe's either. Maybe I'm being a little petty over this, after all Derfel grew over three books, I've almost lost count of the number of Sharpe's I have read. Thomas will no doubt develop in the sequel for which I can hardly wait - hope it's before Christmas!
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118 of 127 people found the following review helpful By Simon Rose on 27 Sep 2002
Format: Mass Market Paperback
This book is "Harlequin" the first book in the "Grail Quest" series with a new title. Cornwell fans beware, do not think that it is a new book!
Having said that Cornwell produces his usual standard of work with an excellent story drawing on strands of christian mythology and well researched history. For me the thing which makes Cornwell the best writer of historical warfare novels since Forester (Hornblower & Death to the French) is his attention to the detail in his heros' daily lives. In this book, Cornwell shows that he is as knowledgeable about the life of an archer in the 14th century as he is about infantry in the 19th century.
A Cornwell book is always worth buying, reading and re-reading.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By "pardshawhall" on 27 July 2004
Format: Paperback
This novel was my first step into what i have now come to know as the marvellous literary world of Mr Cornwell, and it did not disappoint.
The first of the " The grail quest trilogy" The book is set at the very beggining of the infamous hundred years war between the English and French. The plot revovles around a certain young english longbowman called Thomas. Thomas's home village is sacked by raiding party from france, resulting in his fathers death and the theft of a local relic. The resulting story ensues as Thomas joins the english army to avenge the wrongs he has been caused and travels with the army into france to seek revenge on his french enemies.
The book is an excellent read. The plot is never short of medieaval action which is provided through cornwells glorious depiction of the battles and skirmishes that the young hero undergoes. The story flows sublimely easing gently through the pages like an english river on a heady summers day until the battles scenes that is where it thunders with the power and emotion of a waterfall. Apart from being a great book, a brilliant attribute to its curriculum vitae is the way in which the history in which the book is set is easily distributed to the mind giving the reader a chance to come away from the book feeling happy about the book but (as is the case with most cornwell novels) as more knowledgable on an important period of English history. I would recommend this book to anybody who likes a brilliantly mastered plot with more than a hint of 'factionalality'.
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful By "bryn1945" on 14 Nov 2000
Format: Hardcover
Bernard Cornwell has found a new hero in Thomas of Hookton, and this historically accurate book is a great introduction to the beginning of what became the 100 Year War between England and France. It gives a fascinating insight into the Monarchy of England and France at the time following a couple of centuries on from the Norman invasion of England. Thomas of Hookton is, like Richard Sharpe before him, clearly destined for great things. He speaks French like a native of that country and has an aristocratic background which has been hidden from him by fate. His bow is a monstrous weapon and clearly forms part of history along with the feats of the English and Welsh archers whose firepower decimated the French forces, and caused the defeat of the French Knights time and time again. For the first time, the common soldier, in this case the archers, overcame the flower of the French armies, causing their high-born knights to flee the field of battle. The action in this, the first of the Grail Quest novels lives up to all expectations, and once again Cornwell's hero has all against him. Again he is fortunate in having the ear of Royalty and the aid of Will Speakstone and other soldiers of fortune who have become rich through the spoils of war. It has been suggested that too much has been made of "rape and pillage", however this is an accurate portrayal of what would occur after the fall of a besieged city. Cornwell is always accurate, and in order to appreciate fully the power of this novel, you must first understand the cruel times in which it is set. A rollicking good read; a super Christmas gift for all chairbound would-be heros. I can scarce wait for the next book, but rest assured I shall be first in the queue.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 10 Nov 2000
Format: Audio Cassette
There isn't a better combination in the world of audio books than Tim Piggott-Smith reading Bernard Cornwell's work. The "Winter King" trilogy and "Stonehenge" have all been superb, and "Harlequin" easily lives up to the high standards they've set. Cornwell moves to the Hundred Years War for the first book in his new series which primarily concerns the adventures of Thomas of Hookton as he fights his way through France serving the Earl of Northampton and King Edward III. Thomas, however, has his own burning personal reasons for going across the Channel... The story itself is everyhing you'd expect from Bernard Cornwell...exciting, well researched and blood stirring with a strong, admirable hero. Formulaic in some respects maybe, but eminently enjoyable nevertheless. Tim Piggott-Smith's narrative style complements Cornwell's stories perfectly...he acts the storyline impeccably, endowing each character with a distinct sound and personality which must be extemely hard to achieve within a "talking book". His voice is rich and full of expression which enhances the ability of the listener to concentrate on the storyline...another fine achievement for this medium. I can't recommend this enough, nor its predecessors in the Cornwell / Piggott-Smith collaboration...treat yourself and give them a try.
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