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The Archer's Tale

(Grail Quest #1)

4.13  ·  Rating details ·  27,100 ratings  ·  1,069 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 E
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 4.13  · 
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 ·  27,100 ratings  ·  1,069 reviews

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Aug 31, 2013 rated it it was ok
Shelves: middle-ages, owned
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
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
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 right from the first page. I can consider it already as one of my most favourite books, it's appropriate for all adult 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 adult ages, if you love historical fiction thi ...more
Jason Koivu
Mar 25, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A good start to another historical fiction series by a master of the craft, Bernard Cornwell! This one is set at the period that kicks off the Hundred Years War. There's also a personal family fight that ties in the Arthur legends. Lots of interesting details and some solid characters to follow too. I'm looking forward to the next book. ...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
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. P
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 book
Jun 01, 2014 rated it liked it

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
Aug 01, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Kimber by: A&M August 2014 Group Read
Shelves: kindle, hf-england
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 book f ...more
Lewis Weinstein
Nov 28, 2020 rated it it was ok
There are parts of this book that are fast-paced and exciting ... unfortunately they are too far separated by rather boring sections where the characters are not developed enough to create an emotional attachment ... I remember liking Cornwell's writing ... but not this time ...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.
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
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 we
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
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.
Mar 25, 2019 rated it really liked it
This book is beautifully written, and the story pulls you in from the first. A story 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.
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'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 j
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 differe ...more
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 :)
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. ...more
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.
Jul 06, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: books-i-own
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
Aug 14, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: historical, war
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
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 experienc
A.L. Sowards
Jul 09, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction, 2017, adventure
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
Oct 31, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
You hear about the Hundred Years war in history class but he makes it come alive. Interesting characters keep the action alive until the battle scenes roll on. Believable action. The battle at Crecy is just so realistic. Take a break, read this book and the rest of the trilogy. You will not be disappointed.
Oct 23, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: owned, fiction, historical, war
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 batt
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 Hundr ...more
Mar 20, 2019 rated it really liked it
I received a great history lesson from this book. As much as I learn the times from Follett's 'Kingsbridge' series, I read that this contains historical accuracy from each of the battles, certain deaths, and events concerning notable people. Allegedly only two events were fictional, and few characters.

It's books like these that have me holding my smartphone with Google open, and always looking up various people/places/things. I also look at maps and photos of different locations that were set
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Ancient & Medieva...: AUGUST 2014 (Group Read 2): The Archer's Tale by Bernard Cornwell 97 159 Jul 11, 2017 06:18PM  
Are there any UK vs. US differences? 3 59 Aug 07, 2014 10:54AM  
Fantasy Aficionados: Fantasy Movies 19 77 Feb 02, 2014 12:12AM  

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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 n ...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)

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