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24 of 27 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Thomas of Hookton's Quest Continues
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...
Published on December 22, 2002 by charles falk

versus
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Lukewarm At Best
If you've read the very fine "The Last Kingdom" and "The Arthurian" series, you already know what an exceptional writer Bernard Cornwell is.
So what happened with "The Archer's Tale" series? Repetitious, meandering, and downright boring, with Thomas wandering aimlessly about the story. Such a one dimensional character! Bring back Uhtred! Bring back Dervel! Give us...
Published on January 27, 2008 by Baazumi


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24 of 27 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Thomas of Hookton's Quest Continues, December 22, 2002
By 
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. Everyone rightly praises Cornwell's mastery of historical minutia, but I think his strongest storytelling gift is his ability to make his readers see, and feel, and smell a scene. At the book's end Thomas has learned more about his heritage and vanquished many enemies, but the quest for the Grail and his father's muderer will be continued.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Arrows and Crosses, November 17, 2007
By 
Gary Griffiths (Los Altos Hills, CA United States) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Vagabond (The Grail Quest, Book 2) (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. But aside from documenting the mechanics and horrors of war in the 14th century, Cornwell, as usual, spins his fiction in a fascinating backdrop of the culture and lore of the period. The power of the Church, as well as the hypocrisy, is never quite as disturbing as when told by Cornwell, burnished in this episode by the righteousness terror of the Inquisition. Indeed, the medieval punching bag Thomas finds little respite this time around, having his suffering delivered by the hand of a sadistic priest.

In short, if you love an action-packed page-turner, but prefer some education and even a bit of history infused with your time spent reading, I couldn't recommend a better author than Bernard Cornwell, and a better saga than "The Grail Series". This one just may be the best of the bunch, but then, I'm looking forward to giving sequel "The Heretic" a chance to better it.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Cornwell works his magic to create a captivating story, January 11, 2003
By 
Bookreporter (New York, New York) - See all my reviews
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. I gained a new respect for archers. While I am no fan of war stories (due mostly to a squeamish temperament), the tale of young Thomas is utterly captivating. Despite the repugnance of the cruelest scenes, I reminded myself that the violence and savagery are an integral part of the story. In truth, it would be hard to call it a war if there was no pain, carnage or death.
Before the fighting, the men are whipped into a frenzy with exhortations of "Kill them! Kill them all! The lord will reward you for every Englishman (or Scotsman, or Frenchman) slaughtered!" The hatred is fierce and very personal. Without knowing the enemy's face, swordsmen slash with heated vehemence at their opposition, butchering men and animals, all in the name of righteousness. It struck me as a medieval jihad and hammered home the point that man has been fighting holy wars for centuries. Despite the ugliness of the subject, VAGABOND reads fast and leaves one immensely satisfied with the story.
It is indeed a pleasure learning to love history through Bernard Cornwell's work. He takes an otherwise dry subject (to me, at least), works his storytelling magic and turns it into high entertainment. I greedily look forward to being among his audience when he releases the next in the series.
--- Reviewed by Kate Ayers
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Almost better than the first volume, December 3, 2002
Bernard Cornwell has always had a talent for writing great novels and will always be known for the Sharpe serires, but this Grail Quest series is probably his best. This book is the best for any fan of historical fiction, or history in general. It is one of those rare books that I could hardly put down and found myself constantly thinking about it when I was not reading it.
To be honest, I was worried when the book first started as Thomas had seemingly become somewhat holier since the first book ended, but that simply turned out to be a mistaken interpretation on my part, as Thomas is quickly up to his neck in the same chivarly and devilry as in The Archer's Tale.
As with his other books, Cornwell has blended the fictional events and the historical events so well as to make it almost impossible to tell when the history ends and the fiction begins. Thankfully, Cornwell is one of the few honest historical fiction writers to actually offer historical notes with his books to tell what's what.
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14 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating adventures of an admirable archer, May 26, 2003
In "Vagabond", Thomas of Hookton is the expert longbowman hero that we follow on his quest of the Holy Grail. Actually, as in the first book, "The Archer's Tale", Thomas is not all that interested in the Grail; he'd just rather be an archer; however, he keeps getting sucked into its pursuit by others who hound him about it. These others are generally cruel and hateful characters whose interest in the Grail is to obtain political or religious power, or monetary fortune. They are a threat to Thomas and have all done evil to him and his friends,thereby becoming enemies upon whom Thomas must seek revenge. Thomas is a hero to admire, not because he is particularly charismatic, but because he is humble, honorable, clever, and skilled. He is caught in dangerous times and situations, and carries out his duties for England and his friends as best he can.
This sequel was not as exciting as the first book, but the battle scenes in both books are fascinating, vivid, and gory. Author Cornwell bases these on actual historical battles. This book opens with the Battle of Neville's Cross in which the confident Scots, invading England while England is busy battling in France, nevertheless are slaughtered. The amazing battle of La Roche Derrien in France is the ending scene, in which all but one of Thomas' enemies is vanquished, but the Grail is still undiscovered. This lets us know that another sequel will follow. I have learned a lot about this era of the famous longbow archers and of the 1000 year war between England and France, and Thomas' personal adventures in this period make me eager to continue reading whatever sequels are coming.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars More Thomas the Archer, More Carnage, July 26, 2004
By 
Scott Schiefelbein (Portland, Oregon United States) - See all my reviews
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Bernard Cornwell's "Vagabond" continues the saga of Thomas of Hookton, archer extraordinaire, that began in "The Archer's Tale." In the first novel, we meet Thomas, illegitimate son of a seemingly mad, definitely murdered priest. Thomas is educated but has a ne'er-do-well streak a mile wide, and his life's ambition is to be an archer.

Living during the Hundred Years War, Thomas's devotion to archery is smart, since the archer rules the battlefield. Archers use mighty bows that smash arrows through shields and armor with horrible effect. Cornwell opens "Vagabond" with one of the archers' most notable historic triumphs, where an outmanned English force destroys a larger Scottish army at Neville's Cross near Durham. Nobody writes a better battle scene than Cornwell - his descriptions of violence are gripping, and he never loses sight of the logistics of a battle as well as its ebb and flow.

Some of these descriptions are most vivid when Thomas and Robbie, a Scotsman, terrorize the countryside, picking off an invading force piece by piece, using supersitition as well as lethal force to bring terror to their foes.

Thomas is doomed to spend much of "Vagabond" in the deepest despair. He loses friends and lovers -- life at during the Hundred Years War truly was precarious, and Cornwell does not spare characters merely because they are Thomas's friends. Cornwell's willingness to "kill off" characters, in addition to being realistic, keeps the reader on the edge of his seat because all characters are in peril at any given moment. Fortunes can turn on a dime.

Thomas is also charged with tracking down the Holy Grail, using an arcane book drafted by his father. Thomas has no mania for the Grail, but others do. Not only are other members of Thomas's family after the Grail, so is the Inquisition. And Thomas has an unfortunate encounter with the Inquisition that is even more terrifying than Cornwell's vivid battle scenes.

"Vagabond" sweeps the reader from the northern reaches of England to a battle on the English Channel and back to France and Brittany. Cornwell does not waste too much time on travelogue-exposition, but he provides enough detail that the reader is always grounded in the scene.

Long on action, spiced with humor and romance, "Vagabond" tells a rip-roaring tale that commands that you tear through its 400 pages. A great read!

In some series, the later books "stand on their own" and can be read out of sequence without missing anything. "Vagabond" is not one of them -- do not read "Vagabond" without reading "The Archer's Tale" first.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Search and destroy . . ., August 26, 2006
By 
Charles Miller (San Jose, CA USA) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Vagabond (The Grail Quest, Book 2) (Paperback)
Cornwell picks up the saga of Thomas of Hookton and his Grail quest in this second volume of his treatment of the Hundred Years War. From the Battle of Neville's Cross at the beginning to the French siege of La Roche-Derrien at the end, fans of Cornwell's battle scene descriptions will enjoy a feast of arrows and gore. In between there are plenty of new and old villains, the return of Jeanette, and enough ups and downs to keep the pages turning. If you have read the first volume, "The Archer's Tale," you can't stop now--read "Vagabond," and you won't be disappointed.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars As engrossing as the first in the Grail trilogy, June 23, 2007
By 
JaneConsumer (Philadelphia, PA United States) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Vagabond (The Grail Quest, Book 2) (Paperback)
VAGABOND is the second book in the Grail trilogy, following THE ARCHER'S TALE. It continues Thomas of Hookton's duel mission - to lead archers in the English king's army and to find the holy grail, if it exists. Thomas is skeptical about its existence because he has never seen it, and because his father was thought to be a bit crazy.

As with the first book, VAGABOND accurately reflects the history of the Hundred Years War. Because the characters develop throughout the trilogy, it's best to begin with THE ARCHER'S TALE.

Don't miss the third book, HERETIC.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great second book of the series, November 25, 2013
A great book although the chapters are a little longer than I like since it simply becomes difficult to put down..
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Second in a rivetting adventure series of the Hundred Years War, October 3, 2011
By 
This review is from: Vagabond (The Grail Quest, Book 2) (Paperback)
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 (The Grail Quest, Book 2)
Vagabond (The Grail Quest, Book 2) by Bernard Cornwell (Paperback - January 3, 2006)
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