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Thursday, April 02, 2009

Just Finished Reading: Harlequin by Bernard Cornwell

In the Year 1342 Thomas of Hookton’s life changed forever. Out of an early morning mist French raiders arrived to sack his village. But they are after more important things than the meagre pickings provided by a poor settlement. They are after a religious relic – the lance used by St George himself to kill the fabled dragon. As he holds his dying farther in his arms Thomas learns of his true heritage in France and of the significance of the lance. Leaving his old life behind he joins a band of archers who are retained to fight the French on their own soil. So begins a quest that will bring Thomas face to face with the man who destroyed his life and place him on the battlefield of Crecy where the might of French chivalry are determined to end the English threat once and for all.

I have made no secret of the fact that I am a huge fan of Bernard Cornwell and have enjoyed many of his Sharpe books based during the Napoleonic Wars. I did catch a brief glimpse of Sharpe in this novel and, just for a moment, wondered if the author had merely transported his most famous creation back over 400 years but it was not to be. This book, the first part in the Grail Quest trilogy, though similar in some senses is very different in others. Cornwell has the real gift of creating characters that are fully formed and either lovable or hateable in equal measure. He also has the skill, which is fairly rare amongst male authors, of breathing real life into his female characters as much as his male. I managed to positively power through the nearly 500 pages of this book in a matter of days which says much for both his writing style and his ability to produce a real page turner. Yet again I have greatly enjoyed a historical novel much more than many of my recent excursions into SF. I also, at least in a superficial manner, gained an appreciation of a period in European history that I know very little about – apart from the battles of Crecy and Agincourt which bookend the 100 Years War between England and France. I think that I will be reading the next two books in this series fairly soon.

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