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The Archer's Tale (The Grail Quest, Book 1) Paperback – November 8, 2005

4.4 out of 5 stars 423 customer reviews
Book 1 of 4 in the Grail Quest Series

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

The young archer Thomas of Hookton joins the forces of King Edward III to fight against France in Cornwell's latest, which takes place in the mid-14th century at the beginning of the Hundred Years War. Thomas, a brilliant, handsome warrior who combines physical strength and skill with the bow, survives the pillaging of his village to become an archer and then rescues a female counterpart known as the Blackbird after she's nearly raped by Sir Simon Jekyll during one of the troop's raids in France. The nobleman becomes Thomas's chief rival as Jekyll continues to pursue the Blackbird, and Thomas is finally cast out of his unit after failing to kill Jekyll in an ill-conceived assassination attempt. He recovers to join and couple with the Blackbird, making his way through France and parlaying his skills into a royal pardon even as his opportunistic partner leaves him for the libidinous Prince of Wales. The three members of Cornwell's romantic triangle eventually meet during a huge climactic battle at Cr‚cy, where Thomas must face up to a demanding family legacy involving a quest for a special lance. Cornwell has been down this path many times before, and he's a consummate pro when it comes to plying the tried-and-true combination of heroic characters; a fast-moving, action-packed plot; and enough twists and turns to keep the narrative from lapsing into formula. He uses his historical expertise judiciously as well. This book mark the beginning of a promising new series that brings an intriguing period to life. (Oct. 9)Forecast: Cornwell, the author of the Richard Sharpe series, set during the Napoleonic Wars, has a strong and growing U.S. fan base. The Archer's Tale, already a bestseller in Britain, should strengthen his hold on the Patrick O'Brian crowd.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

Already a best seller in England under the title Harlequin, this novel is the opening salvo of a new series by the author of the well-known Richard Sharpe books (e.g., Sharpe's Trafalgar). Set in the early 1400s at the beginning of the Hundred Years War between England and France, this novel depicts one of the most bloody and violent periods in the history of conflict between these two nations. After the theft of the treasure of Hookton, a broken lance thought to have been the weapon St. George used to slay the dragon, young Thomas, the bastard son of the village priest and a skilled longbowman, joins the English army in hopes of recovering the relic. Instead, he finds himself caught up in the invasion of France. Cornwell has crafted an extremely well-written novel, grounded in actual historic events. As in the Sharpe books, Cornwell's battle scenes are particularly memorable. This series, however, promises to be a bit meatier. More attention is paid to fascinating secondary characters and the roles they play in the political, religious, and social arenas of the time. Highly recommended.
- Jane Baird, Anchorage Municipal Libs., AK
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 374 pages
  • Publisher: HarperCollins; Reprint edition (November 8, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060935766
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060935764
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.9 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.1 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (423 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #61,443 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By charles falk on October 15, 2001
Format: Hardcover
With "The Archer's Tale" Bernard Cornwell transports his readers to the mid 13th century and the start of the Hundred Years War. His replacement for Richard Sharpe is Thomas of Hookton, an archer in the army of Edward III.
We learn in the prologue that Thomas is the illegitimate son of the Hookton parish priest, an educated man of mysterious noble origins. Thomas learns Latin and French from his father (which is puzzling because we find out later that the priest's native tongue is langue d'Oc) and archery from his maternal grandfather. French pirate overrun Hookton killing everyone except Thomas. They are led by the priest's nephew who wants an important relic his uncle has hidden in the Hookton church.
Thomas then joins the King's army in order to find and take revenge on the man who massacred his family and his town. Like Sharpe, Thomas soon comes to the attention of a powerful historical figure, the Earl of Northhampton. He also has Sharpe's knack of making deadly enemies of the venal and the villainous -- in this case a knight who serves in the Earl's command. Two women of noble status play key roles in Thomas' life as he fights his way from Brittany to Normandy and into France. The climax of the book is the battle of Crecy.
"The Archer's Tale" is filled with the wealth of historical detail that gave the Sharpe series its air of authenticity. The reader learns the minutae of using the English longbow in battle, about life in a medieval army, and about medieval life in general. Lest I give the wrong impression, the book is stuffed with plenty of exciting, gory, mayhem too. Thomas is an altogether worthy replacement for Sharpe. His intriguing antecedants and his secret quest promise further adventure.
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Format: Paperback
I received the book from a friend as a 'good read'. At the time, I had little knowledge and less interest in the 100 years' war, but had nothing else to read, so I started it. I found the book to be a well written, engaging, well paced look into the life of a common archer who finds himself in the service of the English during the 100 years' war... Cornwell puts the reader in Thomas of Hookton's hip pocket, and there the reader stays as Thomas survives battles, love, lust, injury, failure and triumph in day to day life of 15th century Europe.

The book is historically very acurate, with a minimal articstic liberties taken, and sparked me to learn more about the period. I found it so enchanting that I read the other two books in the series, and started researching more about the war itself... Highly recommended!
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Format: Paperback
There is an inevitability that any new Cornwall book will be measured against the Sharpe series and the opener of the Grail Quest series, `Harlequin' proves that it is of the same ilk. The novel follows an English archer, Thomas of Hookton, from the destruction of his home town and the murder of his father, Father Ralph, through to the battle of Crecy in 1346. Cornwall moves from battle to battle during a period, now denoted by modern historians as the commencement of the Hundred Years War, during which King Edward III of England waged war through Normandy against Philip VI of France.
Cornwall opens in England with the deliberate sack of Hookton by the French knight-pirate, Sir Guillame and the enigmatic figure of the Harlequin. Their prize is the legendary lance of St George. After this prologue we are swiftly deposited in France where Thomas has become an archer of some note in the English army under the leadership of Will Skeat. We are at the walls of La Roche-Derrien which the English are desperate to storm and eventually manage to do with the guile of Thomas. It is during this period the main characters are established, Thomas' immediate enemy - Sir Simon Jekyll, Jeanette Chemier, Comtesse d'Amorique (though known initially as the Blackbird), niece of Charles de Blois, Father Hobbe - who seems to spend most of time acting as Thomas' conscience in a manner that more befits the slave whispering in the triumphant imperator's ear - Eleanor and an assortment of other minor characters.
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Format: Hardcover
With The Archer's Tale, Bernard Cornwell has started a new series. Set in the fourteenth century on the eve of the Hundred Year's War, this one features Thomas of Hookton the sole survivor of a French raid on a poor, south England fishing village. In the prologue we meet Thomas, see his father--a priest--murdered, watch him kill his first Frenchmen with an arrow from his longbow, wonder why the raid has focused on retrieving an old lance--supposedly St. George's, learn that there is a mystery about his birth abd watch with him as a pretty young maid --probably carrying his child--is taken away by the raiders. All that in the first twenty pages! Cornwell, of course, is a master of historical fiction. And he is at the top of his game here. Using the typical device of placing ordinary men in extraordinary historical settings, Cornwell teaches us much about medieval life, towns and warfare. The book culminates with the great battle at Crecy--a battle which had been at the edges of my understanding for decades. As the story end, Thomas, callow no more, is called on to greater deeds--a quest for the Holy Grail no less! Hurry up publisher, get the next volume out ASAP. 'Tis great fun!
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