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Harlequin by Bernard Cornwell
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Showing 1-5 of 46 (next | show all)
Outstanding tale of Thomas of Hookton, an archer who fights on the side of England during the beginning of the Hundred Years War. This is well-researched historical fiction set in 13th Century England and France for the most part. I really enjoyed listening to the audio. The narrator was great, and the story kept me hooked from beginning to end. ( )
  kimberwolf | Jan 16, 2016 |
The Archer's Tale (as it is titled in the United States) has a very archetypical beginning. A small town is raided and obliterated by a large army and a single, solitary young man emerges from the ashes to reek vengeance on the ones who destroyed his home. In this case that man is Thomas, a boy raised to be a priest by his father of the same profession but who has dreams of being an archer. When his town on the coast of England is destroyed, and a precious religious relic stolen by the French in the early stages of the Hundred Years War, he finds a band of archers and enlists in the English army under William de Bohun.

I'm torn on this one, to be honest. The book strikes true in terms of the machismo - the historical/military side of it feels well-researched, even if I couldn't begin to tell you how accurate it is, and the battle scenes are vibrant and thrilling. I'm pleased with those aspects of the novel. I was disappointed that the kick-ass female protagonist floundered three-quarters of the way through the book, and the 2nd female character introduced late feels flat and insubstantial. I don't require these things in a book, it's just that they are there, and not done well. I also felt the ending bogged down a bit, so the last 20 pages or so were kind of a drag.

The Archer's Tale might not be the greatest book I read, but I like it enough to read the rest of the series. Eventually. Probably. ( )
  Ape | Nov 6, 2015 |
"The Hundred Years War was one of the most violent conflicts that ravished Europe during the 14th century. The Archer's Tale is the story of Thomas of Hookton trying to survive the war, while searching for answers to old family secrets that might unveil the hiding place of the holy grail. It all begins when Thomas' little coastal town is sacked by one division of the French army. After seeing his house being destroyed and most of the people he knew being killed, Thomas decides to go the English army hoping to find some comfort in revenge.

There's not much literary stand-outs about the first third of the book, since everything seems a little rushed. At some point, though, the pace gets steadier and the plot gets more interesting, since we get some perspective about the life the soldiers of that epoch presumably lived. Since this is not, by any means, an accurate account based on any kind of real reports, the true diamonds of this book are the battle scenes. Cornwell did a good job of writing them: there were no nonsensical conflicts; everything had a reason to happen, so every little skirmish was highly tactical. That brought a touch of realism to the story being told and contributed for a better understanding of what was going on. Regardless, as the story moves forward, the war is left aside a little and the plot revolves more around Thomas' quest to find the holy grail and what he has to do with it.

As a result of Thomas moving around Europe, some new characters are introduced. I didn't particularly like any of the secondary characters; most of them felt foolish, especially the women which Thomas would fall in love with. Maybe it's just me, but all the women on this book were presented as little more than brainless meat sacks, made to obey and pleasure men. Even when they display a little bit of development, the author makes sure they end up serving that purpose. At the same time, Thomas' army mates are also very stereotyped: they are all brutish rough men that tend to think with the head that is between their lags.

All things considered, this was a good historical fiction. As I stated on other reviews, like the Outlander one, the genre is not my thing, but I can't ignore anything relating to medieval wars, so I ended up reading it. Some things bothered me, like the prevalent shallow secondary characters and the slight inaccuracy of the battles and why they were actually happening; I guess it is one of those books that force you to keep an open mind while reading it, unless you want to give up and grab the next one. As long as you do that - and try not to read the scenes filled with sexual content where someone can read them over your shoulder - you should be fine.

The Last Passage
Thomas opened his mouth. He was about to say that of course Father Ralph had been a younger son, then realized he did not know. His father had never said, and that meant that perhaps his father had hidden the truth as he had hidden so many things.
'Think hard, my lord,' Sir Guillaume said pointedly, 'think hard. And remember, the Harlequin maimed your friend and the Harlequin lives.'
I am an English archer, Thomas thought, and I want nothing more.
But God wants more, he thought, but he did not want that burden.
It was enough that the sun shone on summer fields, on white feathers and dead men.
And that Hookton was avenged.
" ( )
  AdemilsonM | Sep 2, 2015 |
Set in the mid-fourteenth century, during the early stages of the Hundred Years War between England and France, Bernard Cornwell recreates the battle scenes so vividly that you'd think he'd witnessed them first hand.

Many characters are based on real historical figures, including the kings, princes, earls, etc., while the main character is the fictitious Thomas.

Thomas is an expert archer who often lands himself in trouble. But he also has a knack of surviving. One of my favourite quotes comes from a friend of Thomas's after they meet following another of the archer's near death experiences:

"So here you are, and with a beautiful girl as well! I tell you, Thomas, if they forced you to lick a leper's arse you'd taste nothing but sweetness. Charmed, you are."

The author has a talent of blending humour and horror in these types of bloodthirsty tales. He also manages to inject some romance. Thomas has two loves.I won't state which lady prevails, though will say that Jeanette is well-crafted by the author, proving to be one of the strongest characters in the book.

Apart from the author's usual habit of inserting needless dialogue attribution - needless because it's obvious who's speaking - which is especially annoying when placed in the middle of a sentence, thus disrupting the narrative flow, this is well-written, fully-researched novel.

A good read. ( )
  PhilSyphe | Nov 28, 2014 |

Picked this up ages ago under the impression that it was a first installment of a fantasy epic series. No such luck; it's a gritty account of the 1340s war between England and France, with our dashing hero, whose humble birth belies his noble blood; the women who love him; the bad guy who attempts to thwart him at every stage; and his quest for a sacred relic which turns out to be just a piece of wood. There is a lot of sexual violence, and the gallant English win most of the battles. I don't particularly recommend it. ( )
  nwhyte | Oct 5, 2014 |
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Bernard Cornwellprimary authorall editionscalculated
Cornwell, Bernardmain authorall editionsconfirmed
Cornwell, Bernardmain authorall editionsconfirmed
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The treasure of Hookton was stolen on Easter morning 1342.
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Was published as The Archer's Tale in the US.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0060935766, Paperback)

A brutal raid on the quiet coastal English village of Hookton in 1342 leaves but one survivor: a young archer named Thomas. On this terrible dawn, his purpose becomes clear -- to recover a stolen sacred relic and pursue to the ends of the earth the murderous black-clad knight bearing a blue-and-yellow standard, a journey that leads him to the courageous rescue of a beautiful French woman, and sets him on his ultimate quest: the search for the Holy Grail.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 17:59:49 -0400)

(see all 7 descriptions)

After surviving a vicious attack on his village in 1343 A.D., archer Thomas of Hookton joins the army of King Edward III as he prepares to launch an invasion into France, but his quest for vengeance takes him on an epic quest for the Holy Grail. A brutal raid on the quiet coastal English village of Hookton in 1342 leaves but one survivor, a young archer named Thomas. On this terrible dawn, his purpose becomes clear--to recover a stolen sacred relic and pursue to the ends of the earth the murderous black-clad knight bearing a blue-and-yellow standard, a journey that leads him to the courageous rescue of a beautiful French woman, and sets him on his ultimate quest, the search for the Holy Grail. The first volume in this new series begins a medieval quest for the Holy Grail. When his English village is attacked by French marauders led by a vicious knight, young Thomas vows revenge and to retrieve a holy treasure taken from the church. Traveling to France, Thomas joins the army of King Edward III at the beginning of the Hundred Years War, becoming a preternaturally gifted--and deadly--archer.… (more)

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