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Harlequin (The Grail Quest, #1)
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Harlequin (Grail Quest #1)

4.1 of 5 stars 4.10  ·  rating details  ·  13,489 ratings  ·  503 reviews
At dawn on Easter morning 1343, a marauding band of French raiders arrives by boat to ambush the coastal English village of Hookton. To brave young Thomas, the only survivor, the horror of the attack is epitomized in the casual savagery of a particular black-clad knight, whose flag three yellow hawks on a blue field presides over the bloody affair. As the killers sail away ...more
Hardcover, 372 pages
Published 2000 by Harper Collins Publishers
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StoryTellerShannon
Invigorating, fairly accurate for the times and gritty telling of the life of a medieval archer during the time of the Hundreds Year War (i.e. a name coined by historians much after the era).

FYI: The Hundred Years War went on and off from 1337 to 1453 A.D. Basically, the best way to see this, without me waxing eloquent or turning this into a term paper is: view this as a fight between two distant cousins who both had a claim to the French throne (i.e their ancestors had been married to each oth
...more
Nate
Alright...this is painful for me to admit but I have to just get over it and say that this was my first Cornwell disappointment. I initially gave it three stars in a generous spirit but in the cold morning light I see it differently. I've been aware of his tropes, cliches, formulas, repeated phrases and stuff like that since my second book of his (The Pale Horseman) and it literally either been utterly irrelevant to my enjoyment of his novels so I can't just blame my wishy-washy reception to thi ...more
Conor
3.5

It's 14th century France during one of the most bloody stages of what historians would later call the 'Hundred years war'. To Thomas of Hookton, fighting his way through blood soaked battle-fields and razed villages, the ideals of chivalry and the quest for the holy grail seem a long way away. When his village was slaughtered by French soldiers Thomas joined the English army fighting in France in the hopes of finding justice. Instead he found himself trying to survive amidst brutal raids, ex
...more
Kimber
Aug 06, 2014 Kimber rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Kimber by: A&M August 2014 Group Read
My Ancient & Medieval History group constantly raves about the works of Bernard Cornwell. Harlequin, or The Archer's Tale, was my first B.C. read and I now understand the reverence and praise the group gives to Mr. Cornwell. He writes historical fiction. One of the most respectful words I can speak when referring to a writer in this genre is Realistic. Harlequin is definitely Realistic. If you like books about Kings and Courtiers, Belles and Balls, Romance and Chivalry this is NOT the bo ...more
Terri
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I even, after little consideration, went ahead and gave it 4 stars, surprising myself in the process. It wasn't until I sat down to do this review that I actually realised that, yes, I did really like it.
I don't read Cornwell's Sharpe's series and am only interested in reading books of his such as the Saxon Series, Stonehenge & the Warlord Chronicles. This is the first in the Grail Quest series. The other two are Vagabond and Heretic. Here in Australia, this
...more
Vaelin
This was my first foray into Bernard Cornwells novel and I can easily say it will not be my last. All the reviews that praise his historical research and subsequent translation into an entertaining story are spot on! The battle scenes were gritty, foul and horrific.....not an ounce of sugar coating to be seen

Recommendation for fans of medieval fantasy but don't expect any wizard to show up and save the day :)
Graham
HARLEQUIN is the first of Bernard Cornwell's Grail Quest trilogy, and I'm only coming to it now having read most of his other work (like all the Sharpe and Uhtred books). The first thing that becomes apparent is that this is the most formulaic of his novels, as he seems to throw in most of the plot ideas he learnt in the Sharpe books, merely supplanting them into a Middle Ages setting.

There's an almost pantomime villain, inevitably fighting on the hero's own side rather than against him; some fe
...more
Kaora
Many battles have been fought, people slaughtered, churches robbed, souls destroyed, young women and virgins deflowered, respectable wives and widows dishonored; towns, manors and buildings burned, and robberies, cruelties and ambushes committed on the highways.

This book is not for the faint of heart. It is a look into the horrors or war and while extremely well written, it was difficult for me at times.

Mainly because I couldn't find a character I liked. Both sides, the English and the French we
...more
Mike (the Paladin)
I haven't gotten deeply into any series by Mr. Cornwell since I went through a lot of the Sharpe books placed in/during the Napoleonic wars. These take place as the 100 Years War is getting under way.

First I'll say this....Bernard Cornwell can really lay out the bloody, cruel, reality of the time. This book isn't for anyone with a weak constitution. Be prepared for the casual cruelty of humans. Rape, pillage, rapine, casual murder....not so casual murder...revenge, "Fencing. Fighting. Torture. P
...more
Ed
Mar 02, 2009 Ed rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Historical Fiction and Cornwell fans,
I am constantly surprised, though I shouldn't be, at Cornwell's ability to re-create an historical era.

In this story,(also titled "Harlequin" in its British Edition) the first of The three book "Grail" series, Thomas of Hookton, becomes an archer in the army of Edward the 2nd at the beginning of the Hundred Year's war between England and France (mid 14th century).

In typical Cornwell style, Thomas overcomes his low birth (he's the bastard son of a priest) and more than a few near death experienc
...more
Maria Myers
I heard Bernard Cornwell interviewed on NPR last year sometime, and he was very entertaining. He had a funny and cute irreverence I had hoped my college history professors would have (none of them did). At the time, R was also complaining about how boring her European history class was, specifically, the Hundred Year's War. I thought I'd try this out to see if I could recommend it to her. The history I remember best comes mostly from reading historical novels, and the follow up reading I did to ...more
Pamela
A stirring historical novel that follows archer Thomas of Hookton across 14th century France in a series of adventures that culminates in the bloody battle of Crecy.

Cornwell offers us a rough-and-ready hero, some memorable secondary characters, black-hearted villains, and exciting battle scenes that capture the fury and chaos of medieval warfare. The style is pacy and straightforward, as suits the subject matter. I was completely engrossed in the descriptions of life in the castles and camps. T
...more
Patricia
I thought I had already read this book when Amazon recommended it - and the two succeeding volumes. Now that I have read the first three volumes of Druon's Accursed Kings, I am blocked until the next volume is released In November, and decided to tackle The Archer's Tale, an earlier period in French history when Philip is king of France and the English are fighting for territories in Normandy and Brittany.

This is very muscular writing, not at all Phillipa Gregory with her fabrics and textures a
...more
Christopher Borum
As the first of a trilogy, the story is left partly unresolved, although greatly furthered. Anything more would probably be spoiler. Covering the period at the beginning of the Hundred Years' War in the 1340s, "The Archer's Tale" takes Thomas, a young archer from the south coast of England, deep into the action, culminating in the battle of Crecy in August, 1346. Thomas sees his home town of Hookton destroyed by French and Genoese attackers and is apparently the sole survivor. He ends up in the ...more
Beth Cato
This is my first book by Bernard Cornwell, who is a rather prolific historical fiction writer across various time periods.[return][return]The Archer's Tale begins in the village of Hookton on the English coast. There, the lance of St. George was kept safely in the rafters of the church - until one day when Frenchmen raided the town and stole the lance. The only surviving villager is a young man, Thomas, the protagonist of the story. His journey leads him into France at the beginning of the Hundr ...more
Dark-Draco
Thomas is the bastard son of the local priest, who is thought to be mad by a lot of people, and has grown up in the seaside village where St George's lance is kept above the alter of their church. When French raiders come to the village, Thomas takes his bow and fights back. He kills and injures many of them, but they still escape after burning the houses, kidnapping the women and killing anyone else they find. Thomas vows revenge and joins the English Army in France, using his bow to deadly eff ...more
Meghan
I loved this book! It captivated my attention in the first few pages and afterwards I found myself reading it every second I had to. In fact, I haven't picked my kindle up since I started it because nothing on there seemed as important to me as finishing this book. I read the majority of it yesterday being lazy instead of doing things that needed to be done. That's how into this book I was.

He did a great job with the characters ... and the anticipation during confrontations had me holding my br
...more
Jorgen Schäfer
Bernard Cornwell’s historical novel Harlequin takes us back to the 14th century. A norman raiding party attacks the small village of Hookton in England. They kill most inhabitants and steal an important artifact. Only Thomas survives. To his dying father, he gives the promise to return the artifact. On this quest, he’s drawn as an archer into the war between England and France.

This is the first book of the Grail Quest trilogy by Bernard Cornwell. I’m a big fan of Cornwell, and this book fulfille
...more
Kelly
Honestly, I can't imagine giving a Bernard Cornwell novel any less than five stars. I always get so caught up in his stories and characters. The way he writes the battlefield is mesmerising. Add to that the thread of his own story, the characters who live and breath as if they're a part of history, itself, and these are the sort of books I cannot put down. This is how we should teach kids history.
Tamra
Very brutal and bloody but fascinating descriptions of medievil warfare and strategy. Set in the 1340s and one can easily understand why a hundred years later the Pope outlawed both bows and crossbows. Though, admittedly, only against Christains. Book one of a "Grail Quest", but nobody is searching for the Grail in this book. In fact, to say that the title's archer is exceedingly reluctant to do so is putting it mildly. He's quite happily killing and maiming his way through the battles that lead ...more
Susanna - Censored by GoodReads
Jan 17, 2009 Susanna - Censored by GoodReads rated it 1 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: no one
Recommended to Susanna - Censored by GoodReads by: found it lying around the FULIR library
Probably about 1 and 1/2 stars.

Writing: adequate.

Characters: flat. The villains are only villains because they are villains, and because the plot requires that there be villains. Actually, almost everyone does things only because the plot requires that they do them.

I shall not be reading the remaining volumes in the trilogy, or, I suspect, anything else by Bernard Cornwell.
Tim
An excellent read for fans of historical fiction. I was especially surprised at the end to read the author's historical note, which surprised me by saying most of the story in the book followed actual battles during the Hundred Years' War. I look forward to the next book and continuation of the story, which should be quite entertaining.
Leslie
5 stars. Great adventure, military history and deft characterization. This one is going on my display shelf in the classroom library. Bravo, Mr. Cornwell.
Gretchen
Bernard Cornwell has done his research. I will give him all due credit for that. The detail he uses in describing events like the taking of Caen and the battle of Crecy prove Cornwell is a man who has done his research. Here is an author who can retell an epic battle like no other. However, I question his ability to tell a story.

The Archer's Tale starts with what most historians consider the beginning of the Hundred Years' War between England and France. It tells of how the English took the Fre
...more
Izandra Mascarenhas
ENG / PORT-BR

"The Archer's Tale" is the first work in a trilogy. The most amazing of Cornwell is that he describes real events as fiction. Binds us into a reality that we do not know, centuries ago, so detailed that we feel transported in time. But this is not a book that will tickle all audiences. Is a HISTORICAL book; I repeat: no appeals to all audiences. But Cornwell creates engaging characters, as our protagonist Thomas, the most amazing and lucky Archer that anyone could have seen. He make
...more
Joel Neff
Prior to this novel, the only Bernard Cornwell books I had read were The Saxon Chronicles. Those books are fast-paced, graphic, casually brutal, funny, and told from a first person perspective. The Archer's Tale is exactly the same only it's told from the third person omniscient perspective. And that's a little jarring.

As a reader, I get the feeling that if I were to read The Archer's Tale in first person form, I'd have a hard time differentiating Thomas from Uhtred. That's not necessarily a cri
...more
Hana
This is sort of a two and a half star book and I did not finish it. Like Agincourt it is violent, bloody, laced with crude language. Cornwell Bernard knows how to move a story along at a brisk airport-read pace, but there is a sameness to his characters and plots. I'll put up with the violence, etc. if a story seems to be going someplace worthwhile, but this one was just formulaic and rather crass. I sort of appreciated Agincourt since I was interested in this pivotal battle of the Hundred Years ...more
Erica Verrillo
After reading The Archer's Tale I systematically - and quite pleasurably - worked my way through all of Cornwell's other works. But this book remains my favorite. Thomas of Hookton is Cornwell's most engaging character to date - innocent, romantic to the extreme, and deadly. Like Cornwell's other heroes, Thomas has been grievously wronged. But in the Grail Quest series, Thomas must subsume his desire for vengeance to a greater goal. In his wanderings through Europe, the chivalrous Thomas falls i ...more
John
‘Everyone will be drunk soon enough,’ Father Hobbe said, ‘and the horror, will end. It always does. Ale and wine, God knows, are great causes of sin but they make it short-lived. God’s bones, but it’s cold out there.’ He smiled at Thomas. ‘So how’s your black soul, Tom?’

The Archer's Tale follows the story of Thomas, an English longbowman, through the start of Edward III's campaign in Brittany and Normandy, which ultimately kick-started the 100 Years War. The character of Thomas takes a while to
...more
Rita
É uma estreia com este autor.
Como o romance histórico é um dos meus géneros preferidos, resolvi começar com esta trilogia de Bernard Cornwell.
Gostei da escrita, da forma como a narrativa flui, como aparecem as personagens (algumas reais, outras fictícias) e do modo como ao ler o romance somos transportados para uma época de cavaleiros e guerras.
As descrições das batalhas não têm filtros. São duras, cruéis e sangrentas - embora não seja uma pessoa susceptível fiquei enjoada com algumas atrocidade
...more
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Ancient & Med...: AUGUST 2014 (Group Read 2): The Archer's Tale by Bernard Cornwell 96 122 Nov 24, 2014 04:22PM  
Are there any UK vs. US differences? 3 42 Aug 07, 2014 10:54AM  
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Cornwell was born in London in 1944. His father was a Canadian airman, and his mother was English, a member of the Women's Auxiliary Air Force. He was adopted and brought up in Essex by the Wiggins family, who were members of the Peculiar People, a strict Protestant sect who banned frivolity of all kinds and even medicine. After he left them, he changed his name to his mother's maiden name, Cornwe ...more
More about Bernard Cornwell...

Other Books in the Series

Grail Quest (4 books)
  • Vagabond (The Grail Quest, #2)
  • Heretic (The Grail Quest, #3)
  • 1356 (The Grail Quest, #4)
The Last Kingdom (The Saxon Stories, #1) The Winter King (The Warlord Chronicles, #1) The Pale Horseman (The Saxon Stories, #2) Lords of the North (The Saxon Stories, #3) Sword Song (The Saxon Stories, #4)

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“You'll call me a damned Jew, a Christ murderer, a secret worshipper of pigs and a kidnapper of christian children.' This was all said cheerfully. 'How absurd! Who would want to kidnap children, Christian or otherwise? Vile things. The only mercy of children is that they grow up, as my son has but then, tragically, they beget more children. We do not learn life's lessons.” 8 likes
“Pelos ossos de Deus, Tom, o diabo fez um serviço ruim quando trepou com sua mãe.” 6 likes
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