- HarperCollins Publishers
- Publication Date:
- 27 September 2012
- Historical Fiction
Showing 1-4 out of 5 reviews. Previous | Next
Another outstanding book from an author who excels at taking an historic event and turning it into a rousing and hard to put down story. Filled with interesting heroes and really bad villains, the story leads into and concludes with the Battle of Poitiers where once more the flower of French Chivalry falls to British and Gascon knights, men at arms and archers. Cornwell's MacGuffin, the sword of St. Peter, places the story nicely into the author's Grail Quest series. Hopefully other quests and battles, which Cornwell does better than just about everyone, lie in our future.
Sir Thomas of Hookton, a fictional archer from a fictional English village, stars in the 4th episode of the "Grail Quest" series. Leading a mercenary band of archers and men-at-arms through chaotic France during the 100 Years War, this novel follows our hero through events up to and including the stunning English victory at Poiters, where Edward the Black Prince (as he would someday be known) defeated a French army nearly twice the size and took captive the presumed King of France (presumed because the English insisted that Edward III was the rightful king).Sir Thomas has developed a sort of hobby finding revered religious relics and disposing of them for the presumed good of mankind. A descendent of a Cathar heretic, Thomas really doesn't believe these objects are what they are made out to be: the spear of St. George, the Holy Grail, and, in this book, the sword of St. Peter (for purposes of the book named "la Malice." Raised to be a cleric, Thomas isn't necessarily an impious person, although he was excommunicated from the Church and declared an outlaw. Also in search of la Malice is the Pope's right-hand thug, a Cardinal Bessiers, and a priest with bird called a "callade" that is an alleged truth-sayer, in that it pecks out the eyeballs of a victim that is presumably lying. Starving the bird so that it is always hungry for eyeballs is a bit disingenuous, and when Thomas' wife is maimed and partially blinded by the bird, you know the Church is going to take a beating.The climax of the book, the Battle of Poiters, is lavishly described, just as the Battle of Crecy was in an earlier book in the series. At the end of the last book, Heretic, the initial trilogy seemed complete, yet the door left open for was is this novel. The next major battle, the Battle of Agincourt, is far off...not only was it the subject of a stand-alone novel by Cornwell, but also is beyond the useful career of the Sir Thomas of Hookton character. Perhaps he will again pursue a powerful relic in another medieval adventure, but it would be a new story from whole cloth as virtually all of Thomas' antagonists have been put to rest.
I had assumed that having finished 'Heretic' that this was a conclusion to the adventures of Thomas of Hookton. So it was a bit of a surprise to see him make a re-appearance after some hiatus. The 100 Years War offers plenty of material for other books and the book was a decent story involving another religious relic set against the backdrop of the conflict in France. There was good characterisation and an attempt to define female figures. However, given that the Uthred series is continuing and that Sharpe has been on hiatus for some time I reiterate my previous belief that Starbuck deserves a return as a continuation of Uthred and Thomas are too similar at this time.
"They were mercenaries and they called themselves the Hellequin, the devil's beloved, and they boasted that they could not be defeated because their souls had already been sent to hell.""1356" is a good, solid, testosterone-laden action adventure set in late middle ages France, amidst the ongoing feuds, battles and wars between the French and English. Bernard Cornwell is known for his meticulously detailed historical fiction, and his incredibly vivid and life like battle-realism. This book has all of that and more, but it's missing something that drives the success of his other stories: a robustly solid plot."1356" picks up the story of Thomas of Hookton, star of Cornwell's "Grail Quest" series. The book is positioned as a stand-alone novel set within the world and characters of "Archer's Tale", "Vagabond" and "Heretic", most recently published in 2003. Cornwell provides plenty of explanation and backstory to provide the historical context for the characters and their relationships, but what the story doesn't have, and what made "The Last Kingdom" so amazing, for example, is its epic scale and breadth. I'm not referring strictly to time-scale, but rather a story that’s as bold and unique as its many battle scenes. “Last Kingdom” is major motion picture-worthy. The story behind "1356" would make a fine TV movie.The plot revolves around a quest for a sword of historic and religious significance; supposedly, the holder of 'La Malice' will be the supreme ruler. Once that stage is set, the story is propelled by the different organizations chasing after this weapon of great power: Hookton, known as La Batard, is seeking the object for the English. A rather nefarious Cardinal who carries some serious Hookton baggage from the previous novels, is out for its power to propel him to the Papal throne. Surrounding this core story are the subplots of kidnapped heroines, conniving Lords, and a reasonably well-developed cast of secondary characters that provide a platform for Cornwell's terrific skills in writing dialogue. Unfortunately, where the entirety of "1356" feels itself like a subplot of the larger "Grail" suite, the actual subplots of this novel feel even less significant.As a fun battle-adventure in middle ages Europe, I strongly recommend this book. While it doesn't go much beyond that, I got a strong enough sniff of Cornwells' Hookton mythology that I plan on digging into "Archer's Tale", the first in the series, very soon. I received this book as part of the Amazon Vine program.
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