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The Archer's Tale by Bernard Cornwell
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The Archer's Tale (2000)

by Bernard Cornwell

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14th century (39) adventure (19) archers (12) archery (11) Britain (15) ebook (11) England (54) fantasy (15) fiction (205) France (42) grail (28) Grail Quest (41) Grail Quest Series (13) historical (61) historical fiction (282) historical novel (14) history (26) Holy Grail (24) Hundred Years War (67) Kindle (15) medieval (64) Middle Ages (26) military (14) novel (21) own (11) read (15) series (11) to-read (29) unread (12) war (18)
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A solid adventure story, from a master of the genre. I have few quibbles about the way his man uses his longbow, Cornwell being better about the minutiae of running a Baker rifle. Still, I had a good time following a man with a grudge about his life gradually adjusting to find a level of success. Readable, and pretty good about the battle of Crecy. ( )
  DinadansFriend | Apr 6, 2014 |
First of the Grail Quest series. Excellent in every way. ( )
  DeanClark | Mar 1, 2014 |
Harlequin is the first of Cornwell's Grail Quest series that follows the life of Thomas of Hookton - a simple English archer who gradually gets to learn of his family's mysterious past.

By far the best way to "read" this book is in the audio version narrated by Sean Barrett (available from audible.com). Mr Barrett's performance breathes gritty, wholesome life into the 14th century life of an archer.
More thoughts at http://pratalife.blogspot.com/2008/10/thomas-of-hookton-and-1215-year-of.html ( )
  pratalife | Feb 9, 2014 |
Harlequin is the first of Cornwell's Grail Quest series that follows the life of Thomas of Hookton - a simple English archer who gradually gets to learn of his family's mysterious past.

By far the best way to "read" this book is in the audio version narrated by Sean Barrett (available from audible.com). Mr Barrett's performance breathes gritty, wholesome life into the 14th century life of an archer.
More thoughts at http://pratalife.blogspot.com/2008/10/thomas-of-hookton-and-1215-year-of.html ( )
  pratalife | Feb 9, 2014 |
Cornwell, best known for his Sharpe series, which takes place during the Napoleonic Wars, has an interest in early Arthurian history as well and has written several books related to that legend (I haven’t read any yet). He has also written a book about Stonehenge, and his most recent, Archer’s Tale (I was able to snag an advanced reader’s copy) takes place during the 14th century. A young archer, son of a priest and a serving woman, is orphaned during a French raid on his father’s village. His father had brought a lance to the village where he was priest, and one of the reasons for the raid was to steal the lance, which reputedly had reliquary powers. Young Thomas swears revenge.

Off to France, Thomas becomes part of Edward III’s campaign against the French (this is the beginning of the Hundred Year’s War). He’s bright and an excellent archer, so he is soon part of the Earl of Northumberland’s retinue and plays an important part in the destruction of several French fortresses. He also gains Sir Simon Jekyll as an enemy. Cornwell has done his research and, in a historical note, states that all of the battles and events are real, as are a majority of the characters . For example, the battle and destruction of Caen took place exactly as it does in the novel. He’s also included lots of fascinating detail about medieval warfare, including this description of loading the earliest cannons: “[Gunpowder:] was made from saltpeter, sulfur and charcoal, but the saltpeter was heavier than the other ingredients and always settled to the bottom of the barrels while the charcoal rose to the top so the gunners had to stir the mix thoroughly before they ladled the deadly powder into the bellies of the jars. They placed a shovelful of loam, made from water and clay soil, in the narrow part of each gun’s neck before loading the crudely sculpted stone balls that were the missiles. The loam was to seal the firing chamber so that the power of the explosion did not leak away before the powder had caught fire. Still more loam was packed about the stone balls to fill the space between the missiles and the barrels, then the gunners had to wait while the loam hardened to make a firmer seal.”

During the destruction of Caen, Thomas has the good luck to save the life of Eleanor, who turns out to be the daughter of Sir Guillaume d’Eveque, the man whose herald Thomas had seen during the destruction of his village. D’Eveque then saves Thomas’s life and reveals to him that Thomas may be one of the Vexilles, supporters of the Cathars, heretics who believed that the church was unnecessary for salvation, which came from within. Thomas’s father, a priest, was in hiding from the rest of the Vexilles, but he had stolen the lance of St. George. So despite himself, Thomas's fate seems to be inexorably drawn to retrieval of the lance that also has a connection with the Holy Grail.

Cornwell is a master at conveying a sense of time and place. The importance of the longbow (called that only later — here it is properly called just the bow) and the advantage it gave to the English becomes clear. An archer could loose 3-4 arrows in the time one crossbow quarrel could be fired, and Cornwell quotes Benjamin Franklin in the epilogue as saying the American Revolution could have been won much faster had the Americans used the bow instead of the musket, but it was easier to train someone to use a musket than to learn the technique of the longbow. Its destructive power at Crecy, the denouement of The Archer’s Tale, is vividly recounted in as bloody a scene as you can imagine.

Sherman’s march to Atlanta pales by comparison to Edward’s chevauchee, the wastage of the French countryside. Everything was destroyed in the hope that the French would leave the security of their castles and come out to fight in order to prevent more destruction. You also get a real understanding of how miserable it was to be a peasant, a plaything for armies, subject to the wrath of soldiers and the whim of knights. It was not a pleasant time.

I have ordered several books related to the Hundred Year’s War and the Cathar inquisition. A short examination reveals that Cornwell’s view of the Cathars is fanciful at best.

( )
  ecw0647 | Sep 30, 2013 |
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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 Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:19:18 -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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