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Vagabond (The Grail Quest, Book 2) Mass Market Paperback – September 30, 2003

214 customer reviews
Book 2 of 4 in the Grail Quest Series

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Editorial Reviews Review

Vagabond, the second entry in Bernard Cornwell's Grail Quest series, has been eagerly anticipated by those who read the first book, and it doesn't disappoint. Thomas has managed to survive the battle of Crécy. Still nursing his wounds, he is dispatched by the king on a mission to look into the matter of his father's inheritance, which is obscurely connected to the Holy Grail. This most precious relic of the Christian faith is a much sought-after object, offering the power of total victory in war to its owner. But Thomas finds himself in the middle of a battle against an army invading the North of England, and other shadowy forces pursuing the grail are prepared to slaughter anyone who stands in their way. In the ruins of his birthplace, Thomas discovers more about his father, and a dangerous voyage to France brings him up against his cousin and arch-enemy, Count of Astarc Guy Vexville. The stage is set for a merciless showdown.

Thomas is a protagonist drawn quite as pithily as his much-loved predecessor, and the sheer verve of Cornwell's storytelling here is irresistible. We are plunged into a distant age: bloody, colourful and dangerous. Roll on, volume three! --Barry Forshaw, --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

The Hundred Years War is the bloody backdrop to this second volume of Cornwell's new series about the search for the Holy Grail (after The Archer's Tale). Like its predecessor, the novel follows Thomas of Hookton, an archer in the English army in the 14th century. Thomas is the bastard son of a recently murdered priest whose family claims it once possessed the Holy Grail. No one is certain the Holy Grail actually exists, but many believe it does, and kings are waging war and committing murder in the search for it. Thomas has a book of his father's, written in Latin and Hebrew, which might reveal clues to the Grail's location, if only he could make head or tails of it. But others are aware of the book's existence, and Thomas's motley enemies and rivals-including Guy Vexille, the French cousin who murdered his father; Bernard de Taillebourg, a Dominican Inquisitor who loves his job; and Sir Geoffrey Carr, a treacherous English knight-are all hot on his trail. The beleaguered young hero must also fight mercenaries, Scots and Frenchmen in gruesome, long-drawn-out battles. Cornwell is meticulous about historical facts and period detail, and his descriptions of butchery with arrow, mace and battleaxe are nothing if not convincing. As expected, the book culminates with battlefield slaughter on an epic scale. Cornwell fans will eat this up.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Mass Market Paperback: 480 pages
  • Publisher: HarperTorch (September 30, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060532688
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060532680
  • Product Dimensions: 4.2 x 1 x 6.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.3 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (214 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,260,573 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

24 of 27 people found the following review helpful By charles falk VINE VOICE on December 22, 2002
Format: Hardcover
Vagabond is the second book in the Thomas of Hookton saga (now called the "Grail Quest Series") by Bernard Cornwell. It confirms what I said in reviewing The Archer's Tale: that Thomas is an engaging picaresque hero and a worthy successor to Richard Sharpe, central character of Cornwell's earlier series on the Napoleonic Wars.
Thomas is an English archer through whose eyes we witness numerous battles early in the Hundred Years' War. He is also the illegimate son of the Hookton priest who was, strangely enough, a member of the French nobility and the keeper of a mysterious relic. We left Thomas in The Archer's Tale, shortly after the battle of Crecy, still seeking his cousin Guy de Vexille, Count of Astarac, who years earlier had murdered his father and destroyed the village of Hookton.
In Vagabond, Thomas has returned to Britain on a mission for Edward III to discover the whereabouts of his father's relic and to determine whether it is truly the Holy Grail of legend. The book begins in 1347 at the battle of Neville's Cross, a triumph of English bowmen over a superior force of Scots who invaded Britain on behalf of their French allies. It ends back in Brittany after the siege of La Roche-Derrien. In the course of the story Thomas runs afoul of a vicious English knight nicknamed Scarecrow, the Inquistion ( which is also on the Grail's trail), not to mention his cousin and several enemy armies. Along the way his wife-to-be and several friends are killed. Thomas, like Sharpe, seems to lead a charmed life, but those around him are not so lucky.
Vagabond is first-rate historical fiction, chock-a-block full of gory medieval warfare set in vividly-described English and Breton landscapes.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Gary Griffiths VINE VOICE on November 17, 2007
Format: Paperback
If we were taught history the way Bernard Cornwell writes it, we'd all be historians. "Vagabond", the middle of Cornwell's superb "Grail Quest" series, is as raucous, brutal and riveting as the best contemporary thrillers, yet manages to stay close to the historical record, slashing and burning life and meaning into the early days of what would later be called "The Hundred Year's War". I was mesmerized by the prequel, "The Archers Tale", finding it the most illuminating and insightful primer of Medieval England found between pages. But after reading "Vagabond", I'm convinced that only a time machine could deliver a more vivid description of love, war, politics, and religion in those turbulent, treacherous times.

Back from "Archer" is Thomas of Hookton, the English archer whose black-yew bow makes widows of enemies while he is half-heartedly seeking the Holy Grail, part of his family's history that Thomas would prefer didn't exist. Instead, he continues on a more personal quest, hunting down his murderous cousin Guy Vexille who torched Thomas' village and murdered his father while seeking the Grail for himself.

In "Vagabond", it is 1347 and Cornwell resumes his tale in northern England. King Edward III, still in France holding down his conquests in Normandy and Brittany, has apparently left his northern flank exposed, inviting the Scots, with some prodding from their French allies, to stream into a vulnerable England. Cornwell's description of the very real Battle of Neville's Cross between the Scots and an outmanned English army is a literary classic, from the strategy and tactics to the stink and gore of war fought helmet-to-helmet and shield-to-shield in violence and carnage simply unimaginable in today's gentler times.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on January 11, 2003
Format: Hardcover
Last year, Bernard Cornwell introduced Thomas of Hookton, a young English archer. He filled the pages with great adventure, gory battle scenes, distressed damsels, armored knights, wayward bishops and beleaguered castles. Now, Thomas returns to England after a victory in the famed battle at Crecy, France. He bears a letter from the bishop and King Edward III that is meant to gain him an audience with an old priest who, it's been rumored, has knowledge of the Holy Grail --- the object of Thomas's quest. Of course, he must fight his way there. After the surprising outcome of the battle at Durham, Thomas forms an odd alliance with Scotsman Robbie Douglas. The two set out on their crusade, a crusade of revenge for several recent deaths, coupled with the hunt for the holy treasure. Their journey takes them back to Hookton first, where Thomas recovers a book written by Father Ralph, his father, who was killed by cousin Guy Vexille (in the opening of THE ARCHER'S TALE). The tome, an apparent clue in the puzzle of the Grail's whereabouts, baffles Thomas --- and later, others --- with its cryptic passages. With book in hand, he and Robbie make the perilous crossing to France over stormy seas, dodging pirates and French war ships, forced into the fray upon landing. They hook up with some of Thomas's old friends and fight some new battles. The quest continues --- and probably will again in Cornwell's third installment in the Grail Series, which is sure to be as eagerly awaited once readers have feasted on VAGABOND.
Cornwell recreates, with brutal realism, the battles stretching across 1346 and 1347. He vividly imagines the gruesome skirmishes, flaying his readers open with horrific details. The most feared battlefield weapon, the longbow, comes into bright focus through Cornwell's words.
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