After the three books of the Grail Quest – ‘Harlequin/The Archers Tale’, ‘Vagabond’, and ‘Heretic’, I thought that we’d seen the last of Thomas Hookton. So, I was thrilled when Bernard Cornwell released a new novel featuring Hookton and many of the other characters from the Grail Quest. This book can be read as a standalone novel, but reading the books of the Grail Quest first adds depth to the characters.
Thomas and his group of Englishmen (and some Gascons) are working as mercenaries in the South of France. They are hired to retrieve the wayward wife of Lord Labrouillade, but have trouble returning her because he is such a gross, greedy slob. The decisions they make have some serious consequences, particularly when Hookton’s arch enemy Cardinal Bessieres gets involved.
But, Bessieres’ involvement has more to do with searching for another Holy relic – La Malice, the sword that St Peter used to try to protect Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane. The Cardinal sees this relic as a sure path to becoming Pope.
Hookton is also searching for the sword. And, having kept the grail out of evil (church) hands, he knows exactly what he’ll do with the sword if he finds it.
Meanwhile, tensions between the English in France, led by Black Prince Edward, and the French are also coming to a head.
The book culminates in the historic battle of Poitiers, with the English once again seriously outnumbered, tired, hungry and thirsty. Once again the superior English battle strategies save the day. The holy sword changes hands a few times and most of the bad guys get their just deserts.
Although I was glad to see the return of Thomas Hookton, I found the search for yet another relic to be a bit of a stretch. There were some excellent new characters introduced: The wild Scotsman- Scully; The incredibly evil father Marchant; and the chivalrous virgin knight Roland de Verrac.
This was another fun but bloody addition to Cornwell’s brilliant list of novels.
Book published 2012