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
'Amidst a wonderful cast of kings, monks, cardinals and mercenaries – Thomas finally confronts a magnificent villain…Crackling with good deeds, fine characters and sparkling set pieces, it confirms yet again Cornwell's reputation for masterly historical novels.' Daily Mail
‘What a very fine writer Mr Cornwell has become.’ Economist
From the Back Cover
Heretic, the sequel to Harlequin and Vagabond, is the third instalment in Bernard Cornwell's Grail Quest series.
When the English capture Calais, the war with France is suspended by a truce. But for Thomas of Hookton, there is no end to the fighting. He still has to pursue the grail, the most sacred of
Christendom's relics. He is sent to his ancestral homeland, Gascony, to engineer a confrontation with his deadliest enemy: his cousin, Guy Vexille.
Once in the south country, Thomas and his men capture a castle. He becomes a raider, leading his archers in savage forays intended to draw his enemy to his arrows. But when he releases a girl condemned to burn as a heretic, his campaign is attacked by the church and Thomas himself becomes the hunted.
Thomas goes to the valley of Astarac, still dominated by the ruins of his family's castle, where he believes that the grail may still be concealed. But there are many others apart from Thomas and his cousin who are searching for the grail. The prize will guarantee victory in battle and the games of hide and seek are deadly.
Thomas finally succeeds in meeting his enemy face to face, but in this deadly encounter, fate takes an unexpected hand. 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.
About the Author
Bernard Cornwell worked for BBC TV for seven years, mostly as producer on the Nationwide programme, before taking charge of the current Affairs department in Northern Ireland. In 1978 he became editor of Thames Television’s Thames at Six. Married to an American, he now lives in the United States.