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on 11 November 2002
I bought this book as soon as it came out and had been hoping for that to happen for a long time now.
Harlequin was a great book on itself, and I was hoping Vagabond would equal it. It did much better that I had expected!
It throws you into the story straight away, deep in North England where Thomas, father Hobbe and Eleanor search for a monk who might supply them with vital information for their quest for the Grail. Thomas takes place in the battle of Neville's Cross, one of the sublimely described battles in the book. After this, the story goes very fast and after quite a big shock, Thomas meets new friends and enemies alike.
At first, they all seemed quite one dimensional, but they really surprised me. All of the events are quite plausible and Cornwell again mixes history with fiction to great effect.
The ending, like in Harlequin, is good enough, considering it's a trilogy, but, even more than its predecessor did, leaves you wanting for more.
I advice this book to anyone who enjoys historical novels; it is one of the most fascinating I have read thus far.
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on 3 October 2011
for lovers of English history this is a awesome treat, filled with action, detailed and gory battle scenes, riveting adventure and emotion, we trace the adventures of Thomas of Hookton, an archer in the English army and the bastard son of a French priest and nobleman who was villainously murdered.
In this novel Thomas is sent back to England to discover its whereabouts and becomes involved in the Scottish invasion of 1347. He soon discovers that his cousin, Guy Vexille, is working with powerful figures within the Catholic Church in France to discover the Grail for their own ends. The novel ends with fierce fighting at La Roche-Derrien back in Brittany.
His beautiful young French wife Eleanor is murdered by evil men, and he must avenge this and their other foul deeds, together in his search for the grail with his new found Scottish friend and comrade, Robbie. Cornwell succeeds in creating a thrilling adventure while bringing alive the history of the 1300s in England, Scotland and France.
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Vagabond is the second novel in The Grail Quest series by Bernard Cornwell. Set during the first stage of the Hundred Years War, it follows Thomas of Hookton's quest to find the Holy Grail, a relic which will grant decisive victory to the possessor. In 1347, a year of conflict and unrest, Thomas of Hookton returns to England to pursue the Holy Grail. Among the flames of the Hundred Years War, a sinister enemy awaits the fabled archer and mercenary soldier: a bloodthirsty Dominican Inquisitor who also seeks Christendom's most holy relic. But neither the horrors of the battlefield nor sadistic torture at the Inquisitor's hands can turn Thomas from his sworn mission. And his thirst for vengeance will never be quenched while the villainous black rider who destroyed everything he loved still lives.
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on 20 September 2007
Having read the first of the Grail Quest books and uttelry loved it I was looking forward to this one. I wasn't disappointed. The narrative and characters are as brilliant as ever with Cornwell and the progression of the story moves along well.
The only negative for me was that it felt a little more disjointed than the first. Thomas travelling here and there many times which for me made it lose focus a little bit. The upside of this is that there's always something going on, and helps keep your interest, but it didn't feel as purposeful as the first.
It really is only a minor gripe though as it is an excellent read, and made me very excited about getting the final book (As far as I believe it is only a trilogy)

Once again Cornwell excels, drawing the reader into a colourful and complete world with a book that is a pure joy to read.
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on 21 April 2015
Bernard Cornwell, OBE was born in London, England on 23 February 1944. His father was a Canadian airman, and his mother was English, a member of the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force, WAAF. He was adopted at six weeks old and brought up in Thundersley, Essex by the Wiggins family, who were members of the Peculiar People. That is a strict sect who were pacifists, banned frivolity of all kinds and even medicine. So, he grew up in a household that forbade alcohol, cigarettes, dances, television, conventional medicine and toy guns. Unsurprisingly, he developed a fascination for military adventure. Cornwell was sent to Monkton Combe School which is an independent boarding and day school of the British public school tradition, near Bath, Somerset, England and as a teenager he devoured the Hornblower novels by CS Forrester. After he left the Wiggins family, he changed his name to his mother’s maiden name, Cornwell. He tried to enlist three times but poor eyesight put paid to this dream and he went to the University of London to read theology. On graduating, he became a teacher, then joined BBC.

He is an English author of historical novels. He is best known for his novels about Napoleonic rifleman Richard Sharpe which were adapted into a series of Sharpe television films. He started to write after his life changed in 1979, when he fell in love with an American. His wife could not live in the UK so he gave up his job and moved to the USA. He could not get a green card, so he began to write novels. The result was his first book about that 19th century hero, Richard Sharpe, Sharpe’s Eagle. Today Bernard Cornwell has 20 Sharpe adventures behind him, plus a series about the American Civil War, the Starbuck novels; an enormously successful trilogy about King Arthur, The Warlord Chronicles; the Hundred Years War set, Grail Quest series; and his current series about King Alfred. The author has now taken American citizenship and owns houses in Cape Cod, Massachusetts and Florida, USA and two boats. Every year he takes two months off from his writing and spends most of his time on his 24 foot Cornish crabber, Royalist.

Vagabond is the first book by Bernard Cornwell that I had read. I was on holiday, had read the books that I had taken with me, so I borrowed this book from my husband. He has read many Bernard Cornwell books and enjoys them immensely. I was quite excited to read a book by a new author. The Grail Quest is a trilogy of books set in the 14th Century. Vagabond is the second book in the series. It starts in 1346 with the Battle of Neville’s Cross in Northern England. While King Edward III fights in France, England lies exposed to the threat of invasion. The battle is peripheral to the main plot of the hero, Thomas of Hockton’s, search for the grail which is supposedly under the control of his family and has been hidden by his dead father. Thomas, is a protagonist drawn quite pithily. He is an archer and hero of Crécy, finds himself back in the north just as the Scots invade on behalf of their French allies. Thomas is determined to pursue his personal quest: to discover whether a relic he is searching for is the Holy Grail. It is the archers whose skills will be called upon, and who will become the true heroes of the battle.

Thomas struggles with his doubts that the Grail even exists and travels around England and Northwestern France while working off his guilt at not being able to save his two early travel companions from being murdered. Cornwell’s battle descriptions are as good as any in historical fiction. His description of this Middle Ages’ environment is also excellent. I was particularly impressed with his analysis of the power and influence of the Catholic Church in those days. The sheer verve of Cornwell’s storytelling here is irresistible. The reader is plunged into a distant age: bloody, colourful and dangerous. However, I found that the story did tend to drag a bit through the middle of the book.

Still, I really did enjoy this book. I recommend it and I will read more by this author.
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on 30 March 2012
This is the second book in Cornwell's 'Grail Quest' trilogy and continues the story of Thomas of Hookton. It's hard to write a synopsis for a sequel without spoiling what happened in the previous book! Suffice to say that, as the book starts, Thomas is back in England and heading for Durham, where he is to deliver a message for King Edward. The message, naturally, has to do with the Grail, and Thomas is not the only one following the trail. Soon he is involved in a battle with the Scots, who have invaded at the request of their allies the French, and is dealing with the attentions of a Dominican monk of the Inquisition and his murderous henchman.

I thought Cornwell's writing - as has been the case in all of his books I've read so far - was marvellous. He has an eye for detail that brings the characters to life, and his pacing is fantastic, so it keeps you turning the pages. For me, Thomas really started to come into his own in this book, and there are a couple of brilliant new characters plus some returning from the first book. There is one slightly formulaic character: in the first book Thomas made an enemy of Sir Simon Jekyll, who dogged his steps throughout that book, and here he makes an enemy of Sir Geoffrey Carr, another moustache-twirling bad guy. However, to counter this there is the Dominican monk, de Taillebourg, a fantastic character who gave me chills - and I couldn't help but picture Jeremy Irons in the role. There's also some brilliant tension and twists and turns. The battle scenes can be graphic and there are some scenes of torture, so be advised if you're not keen on that sort of thing.

Although I do still think that his Arthurian trilogy had more depth and better characters, 'Vagabond' is another terrific book that I'd have no hesitation in recommending to anyone interested in an exciting adventure set against a historical backdrop.
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on 24 August 2011
Thomas of Hookton returns to England following the Battle of Crécy (1346) with his fiancée Eleanor and their friend Father Hooke continuing his search for the truth about his father. A lead that an old, dying monk in Durham may be able to tell them more sends them north. They arrive near Durham just as the Scots are heading south on a major invasion in support of the French. Thomas prepares to join the English for the up-coming battle and sends his friends into Durham to find and interview the old monk. But things do not go as expected..........

I'll try not to spoil your reading except to say that new friends and new enemies appear and new skimishes and new battles are fought in this second book of the series. The plot takes several twists and turns in different directions as the pages of Bernard Cornwell's excellent book keep turning. The research is excellent and, as usual, you get the feel of actually being there in the rain and mud - is that too much of a "spoiler"? - of England and France following our characters as the plot unfolds.

For those who haven't read the first book "Harlequin" (and why not?) short summaries of the story so far are included from time to time. Some may find this annoying but the author, I believe, has done his best to keep it to a minimum.

For Kindle users there is a map at the beginning that can be followed and the TOC works well. The formatting is good and I failed to notice any "typos" as I read. I do hope you enjoy this excellent book.
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on 7 December 2002
When I finished harlequin (first in the trilogy) all I wanted was more and this is what you get. You could read this book first but a lot of the story is set up it the first book. I recommend it to anyone who wants an easy to read adventure story.
The only problem is when you finish it you want to be able to read the next one. I want the story to conclude because I want to find out what happens but I want to continue reading the stories for much longer. The trilogy does give the impression of spilling over into a series of novels covering the history of the hundred years war in its entirety but so what, it is a great story. This novel did come across as a gap filler before the grand final but it was still was great.
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on 30 November 2015
A review of Harlequin and Vagabond

Ok look Bernard can write a mean plot, there's no let up, the bad guys are numerous and as mean as they get. The hero is not heroic but he is very resilient and sometimes foolish, always brave and has generally good intentions, but a saint he certainly isn't. Similar to Uhtred of the Last Kingdom. And there you have the only flaw with these books, the formulae is well proven but re-worked for different scenarios. You know the main character is going to have to endure a relentless series of misfortunes, betrayal, torture, battles, love and lust, revenge and glory. You know the evil characters are so vile it makes you want to shout with joy when they eventually get what's coming to them. Mr Cornwell is a fantastic story teller, of that there is no doubt. I can't give it 5 stars as I didn't buy the last book in this series. Why? I am 98% sure I know what happens but I can't endure the roller coaster ride to get there. At least not now, I need a break, something a but quieter and perhaps more unpredictable but no doubt I will go back for more later.
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on 20 February 2003
Bernard Cornwell strikes again, and another Cornwell hero, Thomas of Hookton, strikes out again on his quest for the Holy Grail in Vagabond, the second book in this entertaining new series from the creator of Richard Sharpe.There are some who will say that Thomas of Hookton is merely another embodiment of Richard Sharpe. There are some who will say that Cornewll's books are somewhat formulaeic and predictable. But NONE will say that this book isn't entertaining. As always, Mr. Cornwell finds interesting historical battles and campaigns to weave his stories and characters through. The spiritual and mystical existence of and search for the Holy Grail provides some spice to the tale which is grounded in the world of the English Archer and his Long Bow and their place in military history. Villains and allies abound and of course, there is a woman or two in need of saving or loving or both. So dust off your chain mail, grab your bow and sword, display your badge and motto and take this journey soon.
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