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4.6 out of 5 stars262
4.6 out of 5 stars
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on 10 February 2005
I am new to Bernard Cornwell, although I have always enjoyed historical novels, the 'Sharpe' series did not appeal to me. However, the 'Grail' trilogy was lent to me so I thought I had better read them.
I must admit I was greatly surprised, and found them very enjoyable. The descriptions of the battles were superb, and I am disappointed that this last book did not contain anything but what seemed to be small skirmishes. I enjoyed the battles so much in the previous two books that I really didn't care if Thomas found the Grail or not. This last book really does concentrate on Thomas' search for the most valuable relic of Jesus that could ever exist. And that seems to be the question. Could the Holy Grail really still exist, and if it does, would it be a good thing to find it.
I do not feel this book was as good as the first two, but I don't think it was as dire as some people have made out. This series can't be that bad, as it has encouraged me to read more Bernard Cornwell.
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Bernard Cornwell has completed the Grail quest trilogy, Harlequin Vagabond and Heretic, with a wonderful climax that leaves every loose end tied up and every person, evil or good, dealt their final hand in life.
The story continues to follow Thomas of Hookton as he endures the weight of the family burden (protectors of the grail), and his position as an archer in the English army; now commanding a garrison of men that are charged with taking a castle for the Earl of Northampton.
The battles are, as with both of the first 2 books, well described and equally explained from both sides of the battle-line. Cornwell has presented a far more fictional book than the first two, which were described as historical fiction. This book, according to Cornwell's historical notes at the end of the book, presents some fictional towns and fictional battles that were used to bring the book to a close. As much as I enjoyed the historical portions of the first 2 books, I was not disappointed by the liberty that Cornwell took with the final chapter of the trilogy. Cornwell created places, people and battles that could be used to reach the necessary climax.
The story, despite the lack of historical fact from the time period (the hundred years war), still manages to grab ahold of the reader's attention and hold it until the epilogue is complete.
I was definitely disappointed when I reached the end of the book. I wanted more of the story but, alas, it would seem that the grail quest is complete and I must move on to other Cornwell novels.
The entire trilogy is excellent and is highly recommended for anyone that enjoys history, grail stories, medieval mythology, early catholic history or plain, old good story writing.
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on 15 October 2003
If there's a better writer of historical adventure fiction currently active, then I'm clearly missing out. Heretic brings the Grail Quest to completion in compelling fashion. Readers of the Sharpe series will need no reminding of the quality of Cornwell's accounts of military action; similarly the authentic feel given to descriptions of medieval life. The new (and central) character of the Heretic is one of Cornwell's best. My only slight quibble (hence 4 stars) is over the development of Thomas himself; I'm sure Cornwell wants to show him "warts and all" but at times his characterisation/motivation seems a little weak. From a personal point of view the Grail Series does not match the Warlord Arthurian trilogy, but will anybody buying The Heretic be disappointed ? No chance.
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on 17 October 2003
As a fan of Bernard Cornwall, and a follower of this trilogy I was looking forward to this book immensely. Unlike the Sharpe books which have unfortunately run out of steam somewhat, the charaters in the Grail series are strong throughout. Thomas of Hookton is a strong lead and this tale provides a fitting end to the trilogy.
As exciting as the other two books, this has all of the elements that Cornwall's book thrive on, realistically realised fights and battles, characters to follow and hate, and a love story entwined within everything else. Oh and they are looking for the Holy Grail as well, do they find it...... you'll just have to read the book.
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on 11 July 2011
The third and last in the Grail quest series - and only now does the search for the grail finally take place in earnest.

Encouraged by the Earl of Northampton he heads for Astarac in Gascony and a final showdown with his cousin and nemesis - Count Vexile - the Harlequin.
Thomas and Robbie occupy a keep deep in France and use it as a base to pillage the countryside and seek the Grail- said to have been owned in antiquity by his family and hidden nearby. The race is on. The corrupt bishops of the church and his own cousin - Count Vexile will stop an nothing to get it first. The last stand begins.

I liked the book, the characters and the setting, yet I found myself really stuggling with an urge to scream when reading this.
Mostly I think that as a series this was full of unnecessary padding and repetitive acivities. I know Bernard loves to stick to formula for his heroes, but its never been so evident than in reading this series. Once again Thomas has lost his last love and finds himself with no aim in life.

Ive given this book Three stars, and it feels really bad to have done so, but I felt this series has so many problems. This is a great book in its own right. Its probably the best written of the series. The characters are well written and motivations are clear and believeable. What causes the problem is that, apart from visiting Crecy and Calais under seiege theres really no reason for the other 2 books in the series to exist. At most, book one should have set up the premise and this book should have completed it. The ending is also a huge (but by then not unexpected) anticlimax.

I enjoyed this series. But its by far the worst of Corwell's books ive read. If you are a huge Cornwell fan - you will enjoy this. If you are a first time reader of Cornwell, read his Arthurian trilogy or his Saxon chronicles instead, they are far better constructed series.
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on 15 July 2007
Typical Bernard Cornwell fare. If you've read his books, you know what to expect, if not then this is as good a place as any to start; except this is the third and final instalment to his Archer/Grail Quest series so I suggest you get Harlequin and Vagabond first (in that order).
This follows on almost straight from the end of Vagabond and takes us to an only partly satisfying end with main characters either surviving or dying at natural and war based endings.
Once again' like most Cornwell fare, a fictitious story set in real history. Good stuff
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on 10 April 2004
Having anticipated Thomas of Hookton's final adventure in the grail quest series I must say despite its merits it was the most disappointing of the series.
No major battles are described in this instalement, but Cornwell makes up for this with a colourful plot set in the south of France, however I did feel there was no real focus to the plot, compared with all his other adventure books with Sharpe and Starbuck that usually describe a major engagement.
My personal criticism is that the final confrontation with Guy Vexille was a little disappointing and Thomas's love Jeanette from the previous two books is completely ignored.
However Cornwell does know how to write a book at high pace, superbly describing the characters and allowing you to smell the fear and slaughter of the hand-to-hand fighting.
Cornwell has hinted at more adventures with Thomas and I do hope so, as the stories are my personal favourites of all his work and there are many more tales to be told set in the Hundred Years War.
Read this if you have enjoyed the grail quest series, but i would suggest avoiding if you are new to Bernard Cornwell.
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on 5 December 2003
I would regard myself as a big fan of Bernard Cornwell, but in my opinion, this is his poorest effort to date. I have read all of his historic novels and thoroughly enjoyed the first two Grail Quest books. So much so that I could not wait for the paperback of Heretic to come out and bought the hardback.
The usual character development and attention to detail is missing. The battle scenes lack impact. It feels as if the book was planned out under certain headings to resolve the story and then joined together as quickly as possible.
If you have read the two previous Grail Quest books, you will want to read this book, but it is not to the usual standard. In the past I would have rated all BC’s books as 5/5. This is only 3/5 at best.
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on 3 August 2005
I picked this up in a bargain book shop for a couple of quid for reading on holiday. I didn't realise at the time is was the third in a trilogy but even without reading the first 2 books I found it very enjoyable. It's not going to win any prizes but it is a good page turner and I'll be buying the other books in the series. Nice and gory in parts.
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on 10 September 2011
1347. Returning to Northern France, Thomas arrives at the Seige of Calais just in time to take part in a failed attempt by the French to raise the Seige. Calais falls with the famous Bergers of Calais surrender to King Edward who releases them and thus the Hundred Years War takes a short break. In contravention of the subsequent Truce, Thomas's patron, the Earl of Northampton, sends Thomas to the Castillon d'Arbizon (ficticious) near Astarac (real at the time of this story) to continue his search for the Holy Grail. Thomas takes charge of his old Archers company plus assorted other Men-at-Arms and marches south.

New friends are made, old friends lost, new enemies made and battles, skirmishes, seiges and fights abound is this fast paced novel to conclude the series. Does Thomas find the Grail? That would be telling, but in my opinion this is a well written book. The TOC works well and the formatting is very good. I would suggest that you read this book last, having read the previous two. There are little summaries of previous events, but very few that do not interfer with the general flow of the text.

I hope you enjoy this final book of the series.
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