The series is set during the hundred years war between France and England and this story starts after the fall of Calais. Thomas of Hookton, with a group of archers and men-at-arms, leaves the English in Calais and travels to his ancestral home in Gascony to search for the Grail. In his possession is a copy of a book written by his priest father about the Grail. In France, Thomas is hoping to find his evil cousin and enemy Guy Vexille to find out what he knows about the Grail. Both Thomas and Guy are descendent from a group of Cathars who are believed to have possessed the Grail.
Once in France, Thomas and his group of men capture a castle. At the castle, Thomas defies church orders by saving the condemned heretic, Genevieve. From this point on, Thomas must deal with attacks from the church in addition to the Gascons and his cousin Guy. And all of these groups are also in search of the Grail for their own reasons.
In the end, Thomas is only able to make his escape due to the decimation of the surrounding countryside and the soldiers on both sides of battle by the plague.
Bernard Cornwell’s portrayal of medieval life is very realistic. An excellent picture of the lives of archers, soldiers, villagers and (often corrupt) members of the church is presented. The idea of excommunication in medieval times was horrifying as this meant losing your soul, so threat of excommunication was often used by the church for gain.
I almost feel sad saying goodbye to Thomas after this enthralling trilogy.
I felt that this was the best book of the series, closely followed by book 1. Overall, I would highly recommend the series to anyone interested in medieval war.
Book Published 2003