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1356: A Novel Hardcover – Deckle Edge, January 8, 2013

4.4 out of 5 stars 681 customer reviews
Book 4 of 4 in the Grail Quest Series

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Although definitely a stand-alone, Cornwell’s latest foray into the dark days of the Hundred Years’ War features the reappearance of the rascally Thomas of Hookton, aka Le Batard, the main character of his enormously popular Grail Quest trilogy. As Thomas and his band of not-so-merry mercenaries roam the ravaged French countryside in search of pillage and plunder, they are bidden by the Earl of Northhampton to unearth the lost sword of Saint Peter, a mythic weapon purported to bestow on its owner tremendous powers for either good or evil. Naturally, the French are also seeking this holy relic, and all roads lead to Poitiers, where the badly outnumbered English forces wage a fierce battle against their enemies, resulting in one of the most improbably astounding victories of the protracted conflict. In addition to carving out another action-packed martial adventure, Cornwell spotlights one of the most significant but often overlooked battles of the era. High Demand Backstory: Cornwell, the master of martial fiction never lacks an audience and the reappearence of the engaging hero of the Grail Quest provides an added incentive to revisit the pivotal Battle of Poitiers. --Margaret Flanagan


“The first must-read of 2013 arrives….Bernard Cornwell is a master of combining a thumping good tale with a fascinating history lesson.” (Reader's Digest)

“In addition to carving out another action-packed martial adventure, Cornwell spotlights one of the most significant but often overlooked battles of the era.” (Booklist)

“No one picks a fight like Cornwell, who here does for the Battle of Poitiers what he did for the bloody fray that was Agincourt in the book of that name.” (Library Journal)

“A master of action-packed historical fiction…a vivid, exciting portrayal of medieval warfare….Nobody writes battle scenes like Cornwell, accurately conveying the utter savagery of close combat with sword, ax, and mace, and the gruesome aftermath.” (Publishers Weekly (starred review))

“Bernard Cornwell does the best battle scenes of any writer I’ve ever read, past or present.” (George R.R. Martin)

“Nobody in the world does this stuff better than Cornwell - action set six hundred years ago is as fresh and vital as six days ago, with rough, tough men at war, proving once again that nothing changes... least of all great storytelling.” (Lee Child)

“The reigning king of historical fiction.” (USA Today)

“Bernard Cornwell is a gifted and prolific historical novelist who seems at home in virtually every era….A lively, accessible account of a remote moment in European history, a book in which Cornwell’s gifts as scholar and storyteller come together spectacularly.” (Bill Sheehan, Washington Post)

“Tired of waiting for another of George R.R. Martin’s Game of Thrones books? Cornwell’s latest novel may be your best option.” (Billy Heller, New York Post)

“Cornwell is one of the best writers of historical fiction.” (McClatchy News)

“The legions of Cornwell’s fans…will need little encouragement to devour this latest installment in the Hundred Years Way sequence. Everything you expect of a Cornwell offering is here in abundance: interesting characters, rich historical detail, thrilling battles, war, violence, gore, heroism, wry humour….Highly recommended.” (Historical Novels Society)

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 417 pages
  • Publisher: HarperCollins; 1st edition (January 8, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0061969672
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061969676
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.3 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (681 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #358,798 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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More About the Author

Bernard Cornwell was born in London in 1944 - a 'warbaby' - whose father was a Canadian airman and mother in Britain's Women's Auxiliary Air Force. He was adopted by a family in Essex who belonged to a religious sect called the Peculiar People (and they were), but escaped to London University and, after a stint as a teacher, he joined BBC Television where he worked for the next 10 years. He began as a researcher on the Nationwide programme and ended as Head of Current Affairs Television for the BBC in Northern Ireland. It was while working in Belfast that he met Judy, a visiting American, and fell in love. Judy was unable to move to Britain for family reasons so Bernard went to the States where he was refused a Green Card. He decided to earn a living by writing, a job that did not need a permit from the US government - and for some years he had been wanting to write the adventures of a British soldier in the Napoleonic wars - and so the Sharpe series was born. Bernard and Judy married in 1980, are still married, still live in the States and he is still writing Sharpe.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Kindle Edition
I purposefully did not read the title summary for Harper's release, 1356, before reading the story. And until this book, I have never stopped to read any title by Bernard Cornwell. What I discovered was a dawning realization that this was an incredibly well-written, highly detailed historical fiction finding its zenith with the Battle of Poitiers in the year 1356. It's expansive. It's vast. The characters work. It's a walking adventure with great depth of detail and imagery.

This is how historical fiction should be written. The characters are written with strength. By the time of the final battle, I was so engaged in the story that I simply could not stop. That's not just a way to make a review sound good! I was honestly, extraordinarily hooked. I could "see" the battle taking place. I am now committed to reading the author's other titles as soon as I can.

I have a deep respect for the level of authorship this story reflects. I could see, hear and smell the din of battle in a way that only Martin (or Tolkien, for that matter) has enabled me in the past. I am in awe of this degree of rich, sweeping story telling. I hesitate to say that I was entertained. It's more like I was transfixed against my will.

The highly detailed narrative was a struggle for me at first. The first chapter's character is slowly woven into the fabric of the rest of the story, and although it turns out to be pivotal, I was lost in trying to grasp the significance.

Ultimately, though, I wasn't expecting to immerse myself so deeply in a story with such depth of range. It is not cookie-cutter fiction, folks. This is a serious novel, with amazingly detailed imagery and themes. And I enjoyed myself immensely.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
"They were mercenaries and they called themselves the Hellequin, the devil's beloved, and they boasted that they could not be defeated because their souls had already been sent to hell."

"1356" is a good, solid, testosterone-laden action adventure set in late middle ages France, amidst the ongoing feuds, battles and wars between the French and English. Bernard Cornwell is known for his meticulously detailed historical fiction, and his incredibly vivid and life like battle-realism. This book has all of that and more, but it's missing something that drives the success of his other stories: a robustly solid plot.

"1356" picks up the story of Thomas of Hookton, star of Cornwell's "Grail Quest" series. The book is positioned as a stand-alone novel set within the world and characters of "Archer's Tale", "Vagabond" and "Heretic", most recently published in 2003. Cornwell provides plenty of explanation and backstory to provide the historical context for the characters and their relationships, but what the story doesn't have, and what made "The Last Kingdom" so amazing, for example, is its epic scale and breadth. I'm not referring strictly to time-scale, but rather a story that's as bold and unique as its many battle scenes. "Last Kingdom" is major motion picture-worthy. The story behind "1356" would make a fine TV movie.

The plot revolves around a quest for a sword of historic and religious significance; supposedly, the holder of 'La Malice' will be the supreme ruler. Once that stage is set, the story is propelled by the different organizations chasing after this weapon of great power: Hookton, known as La Batard, is seeking the object for the English.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Allow me to start with some incredibly unfair (and no longer applicable) criticism of Bernard Cornwell - he gives the English warrior Uthred a seemingly-limitless series (the "Saxon Stories") but he stopped the magnificent Grail Quest series ("The Archer's Tale," "Vagabond" and "Heretic") at a mere trilogy. I would submit that the Grail Quest's protagonist, Thomas of Hookton, archer extraordinaire, is just a fascinating character as Uthred, and the archer from the Hundred Years War is more important to Britain historically than a sword-swinging Dane.

With "1356," this criticism is now moot, as we now have another Thomas story. "1356" starts in typical Cornwell fashion - with a noble priest stealing a religious artifact and trying to stay one step ahead of murderous church minions. All the usual tropes from Cornwell books are here - rich clergy are usually villains, heroes are courageous and funny, and villains are (generally) craven and boorish. In "1356" we have a villain who is all too comfortable using a hawk as an interrogation technique (the bird is trained to pluck out your eyes - which I would find persuasive).

This quest for the artifact is motivated by the fact that the Black Prince of England is raiding and pillaging across France, burning crops and effectively denying France its vital revenue streams. King Jean of France, unfortunately, is too afraid of English archers to face them in battle. (After watching Thomas and his Hellequin destroy a French town, you understand Jean's reticence.) But Jean has a new ally, a Scottish general, who claims to know how to beat the English archers. Has Thomas of Hookton finally met his match?
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