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The Archer's Tale

(Grail Quest #1)

by
4.14  ·  Rating details ·  23,472 ratings  ·  923 reviews
From New York Times bestselling author Bernard Cornwell, now available in paperback—the first book in the Grail Series--a spellbinding tale of a young man, a fearless archer, who sets out wanting to avenge his family's honor and winds up on a quest for the Holy Grail.

At dawn on Easter morning 1343, a marauding band of French raiders arrives by boat to ambush the coastal
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Paperback, 400 pages
Published November 8th 2005 by Harper Perennial (first published October 16th 2000)
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Bogdan yes, you are going to love these series if you've read and loved A song of Ice and Fire and The Witcher Saga. And this answer is this long because gr…moreyes, you are going to love these series if you've read and loved A song of Ice and Fire and The Witcher Saga. And this answer is this long because gr wouldn't let me post a simple yes, without adding more detail. Cheers!(less)

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Average rating 4.14  · 
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Nate
Aug 31, 2013 rated it it was ok
Shelves: owned, middle-ages
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 ...more
Shannon
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
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Mike (the Paladin)
Oct 06, 2013 rated it really liked it
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.
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Terri
Feb 05, 2009 rated it really liked it
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
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Conor
Jun 01, 2014 rated it liked it
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,
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Anna Maria
Nov 12, 2019 rated it it was amazing
How to describe this book I can only say that it's breath-taking and captivating, I loved it write from the first page. I can consider it already as one of my most favourite books, it's appropriate for all ages especially for those who love historical fiction. I literally couldn't put it down and during the night I stayed awake to see what was going to happen next as waiting till the next day was unbearable! I highly recommend this book to all ages, if you love historical fiction this book is ...more
Sarah
Mar 04, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: historical
Just updating because I think I’m buddies with a few Cornwell fans: I got an ereaderiq alert today (8/20) that this is on sale for $1.99 in the US Kindle store. It wasn’t Uhtred good, but $1.99 is definitely a deal.

If you've read Cornwell's Saxon Stories then you're probably familiar with the formula. Intelligent soldier plays the hero, wins lots of battles, schemes, and has a slew of women on the side. The Archer's Tale mostly follows this formula as well.

Thomas isn't Uhtred though. Within the
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Kimber
Aug 01, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Kimber by: A&M August 2014 Group Read
Shelves: hf-england, kindle
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 ...more
Steven Walle
Nov 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This was a great book. It kept me turning pages throughout. It was all about the wars between the English and the French in the middle ages. It was quite a grewsome battle described in the book.
This is the first of a trilogy which I recommend highly.

Enjoy and
Be Blessed.
Kaora
Jul 03, 2014 rated it really liked it
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
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Patremagne
Having been a big fan of historical fiction for as long as I can remember, I'm ashamed to admit this is my first Cornwell novel. Judging by how much I enjoyed Harlequin, it's definitely not going to be my last.

Cornwell seamlessly blends historical fact and fiction and is one of the few historical fiction authors who stays as close to history as possible, but also makes these minor tweaks to it so that the story becomes, in a way, unpredictable. Sure, a quick Wikipedia search can show you whether
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Susanna - Censored by GoodReads
Jan 17, 2009 rated it did not like it
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.
Natasa
Mar 25, 2019 rated it really liked it
This book is beautifully written, and the story pulls you in from the first. Astory of a young man, Thomas of Hookton, a man of questionable birth, who becomes an archer in the king’s army but it is about so much more. It is also a story of holy relics, revenge, and family. It does not shy away from the violence of the times or the cruelty of men. ...more
Stjepan Cobets
Feb 16, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Fans historical literature
Recommended to Stjepan by: Fan of h
The year is 1342, the English, led by Eduard to third devastate France. Their most powerful weapons are archers with long bows who are called Harlequin. Among them is Thomas of Hookton, the French troops killed his father who is the priest in village Hookton and ravaged the village. The French have stolen relic Spear St. George that his father kept in the church. Here Thomas kills his first enemy and decides to take revenge on the French, and returns the stolen spear. Connects to the army as an ...more
Amanda
This was a good book just not a great one for me. Maybe it would have been great if I had read it on paper instead of listening to the audio version. Trying to squeeze reading time out of every moment possible had me listening at times that I ended up being a bit distracted (like the pre rush hour hustle and bustle on the road) which has left me missing little bits and pieces. Thomas is also no Uhtred. I'll probably continue the series eventually, but might try my hand at audiobooks on a ...more
Vaelin
Mar 21, 2014 rated it it was amazing
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 :)
HBalikov
Feb 26, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Cornwell is one of the best writer's of historical fiction. If you saw Henry V and wondered what the life of average people was all about, this book is grounded in day to day life. It is also a story about the wars of the period and what we rationalize is ok to do to our "enemy". It is a good read in itself and has two other books that carry on the story.
Donna
Dec 22, 2018 rated it liked it
It kind of pains me to give this author a 3 star rating, but 3 stars is still good....it's just not the 5 that I'm accustomed to giving him. This book is the first book in his Grail Quest series. I saw glimpses of the greatness that I've loved in his Saxon Stories series, but it wasn't sustained. I really wanted to feel this one. I waited for it, but it didn't happen. While I didn't love it, I did like it well enough.

I liked Thomas, the MC, most of the time. But he meandered a lot, and I'm not
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Gretchen
Jul 06, 2014 rated it liked it
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
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Graham
Aug 14, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: war, historical
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
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Ed
Feb 26, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  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
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Cheryl
Jul 25, 2016 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Abandoning this one. Too violent and bloody for me. (Rapes happen ALOT.) So many battle scenes. Just not my kind of book.
A.L. Sowards
Jul 09, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2017, adventure, fiction
I loved that this book was so rich with history. It really brought the Battle of Crecy to life (and the other battles too, but that was the big one). The writing was good, the pacing was good, the history was excellent. I liked how the main character grew as the story went along, and the battle scenes were awesome. Probably not a book to hand to teenagers (profanity, violence, and non-detailed rape and sex), but I’m hooked enough to read the next book.
Maria Myers
Jul 25, 2010 rated it liked it
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
Susie
Oct 23, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: war, owned, historical, fiction
This is an excellent historical novel covering the period at the very beginning of the Hundred Years' War, mostly being the tale of one archer involved, ending with the Battle of Crécy.

It is only the second book I’ve ever read by Cornwell, although that first definitely put him on my “favourites” list. He likes to do his research, even listing at the end his main sources for historical reference and inspiration. He specifically points out that he didn’t include much chivalry, because on the
...more
Beth Cato
Apr 10, 2012 rated it liked it
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 ...more
megHan
Feb 23, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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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
Cameron
Feb 05, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Great book. Excellent historical accuracy and character development. Loved the history and story. Great details even down to armor and household objects. I've never read an author who mentioned that the characters hated the rain because it made the leather hauberk feel clammy. I loved it. Cornwall's main characters have a way of having a revolving door of women but at least they're interesting characters. The battles were super well written and used the historical details to paint great full ...more
Pamela
Jun 28, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
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Ancient & Medieva...: AUGUST 2014 (Group Read 2): The Archer's Tale by Bernard Cornwell 102 157 Jul 11, 2017 06:18PM  
Are there any UK vs. US differences? 3 55 Aug 07, 2014 10:54AM  
Fantasy Aficionados: Fantasy Movies 19 76 Feb 02, 2014 12:12AM  

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11,184 followers
Cornwell was born in London in 1944. His father was a Canadian airman, and his mother, who 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 birth mother's maiden ...more

Other books in the series

Grail Quest (4 books)
  • Vagabond (The Grail Quest, #2)
  • Heretic (The Grail Quest, #3)
  • 1356 (The Grail Quest, #4)
“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.” 13 likes
“Calix meus inebrians.” 9 likes
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