Thursday, May 11, 2006

The Grail Quest

Wonderful series by Bernard Cornwell, comprised of 3 books
1.) Harlequin (renamed The Archer's Tale in the States)
2.) Vagabond
3.) Heretic

Guy Vexille aka the Harlequin comes from a family of Cathars. He brings mercenaries to Hookton to retrieve the Lance of St. George and the Holy Grail from his Uncle, the Count of Astarac.

Thomas of Hookton, watches as his village is destroyed by the Harlequin and the Lance of St. George stolen from the Church. Using his skill at archery he drives the Harlequin and his men off, and promises the dying priest that he will hunt the Harlequin down and retrieve the Lance of St. George. Thomas joins the army of King Edward III as an archer and goes to fight in French Brittany and Normandy (The beginning of the Hundred Years War). Unfortunately one of his enemies, Sir Simon Jekyll has him hung before the end of the book....................(it's really bad form to hang one of the main characters). Thankfully he is rescued by Eleanor. Eventually Thomas finds the Harlequin and destroys the Lance of St. George.

Philip of Valois, King of France turns Guy Vexille over to the Inquisitor, Bernard De Taillebourg. Guy tells how the Vexilles owned the Grail, and that it was last in Hookton in his Uncle's possession. They leave for England, to question Hugh Collimore an old monk who nursed Ralp Vexille.

Meanwhile King Edward III learns of Thomas' connection to the Grail and sends Thomas, his fiancee Eleanor (bastard daughter of Sir Guillaume d'Evecque), and Father Hobbe to speak with Hugh Collimore. They arrive in Durham in time for Thomas to help repeal the Scottish invasion, led by King David of Scotland. Thomas sends Eleanor and Father Hobbe on to speak with Father Collimore while he helps fight the Scots. Gux Vexille and Bernard De Taillebourg kill Father Collimore, Father Hobbe and the pregnant Eleanor. The only useful information they discover is that Ralp Vexille had a son.

Devastated by Eleanors death Thomas of Hookton, and Robbie (a Scot captured for ransom and with his own reasons for wanting Guy Vexille and Bernard de Taillebourg dead) journey to Hookton, so Thomas can speak with his Fathers old friend Sir Giles. Sir Giles gives Thomas a book that Father Ralph asked him to keep until Thomas was old enough to take care of himself. After receiving a summons from Sir Guillaume d'Evecque who is under siege from his liege lord for attacking Guy Vexille, Thomas and Robbie leave for France. After rescuing Sir Guillaume, Skeat and Mordecai they set out for La Roch Derrien.

Recalling his promise to Jeanette to return her son to her Thomas gathers some men in an attempt to kidnap the boy from Roncelets. Thomas is taken prisoner and tortured by Bernard de Taillebourg. Eventually he is ransomed for the book he was given by Sir Giles (after Robbie & Jeanette copy the original and make some changes to it).

During a battle between the French and English Skeat is killed trying to defend Jeanette from the Scarecrow. After the battle Thomas, Robbie and Sir Guillaume head south.

Thomas and friends capture the Castillon d' Arbizon in time to keep the heretic (aka Genevieve) from being burned at the stake for being a beghard. Unfortunately Robbie comes to believe that Genevieve should have been burned at the stake and he joins Thomas' enemies for a time.

After being asked to leave Castillon d'Arbizon to prevent division between Robbie's supporters and Thomas' supporters, Thomas and Genevieve travel to Astarac. On the way there Thomas and Genevieve are attacked by bandits, when Thomas captures the bandit leader's son (Galdric), the bandit leader (Philin) offers to let them go in peace in exchange for his son. He also tells Thomas that Abbot Planchard will always take in a wounded man/woman. They travel to the abbey where Genevieve's wounds are treated. Abbot Planchard recognizes Thomas' badge, and identifies him as a Vexille. He shows Thomas a casket that once held the Grail.

Later Guy Vexile comes to the abbey looking for his cousin. Thomas and Genevieve hide in the ossuary, where they overhear a conversation between Abbot Planchard and Guy Vexille. Abbot Planchard's ancestor was one of the seven dark lords who took the Grail from Astarac and swore to protect it. Guy kills Abbot Planchard and sets out to find Thomas. Thomas and Genevieve in the company of the bandits make their way back to Castillon d' Arbizon which is under siege.

On their way into the Castillon they kill Charles Bessieres (the brother of Cardinal Bessieres) who was sent with Guy to plant a fake Grail in Astarac. They find the fake Grail, but when Thomas breaks it they realize it is a fake. Both side are overcome with the plague. Sir Guillaume and Jake die of the plague, but Sam, Genevieve, Thomas and Robbie survive and travel to Hookton where Thomas finds the Grail, exactly where he left it.