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Monday, January 14, 2013

Just Finished Reading: Heretic by Bernard Cornwell

France in the year 1347.With the fall of the port of Calais the English now have a secure base of operations to prosecute their war. As the city is fortified against predicted attempts to retake it Thomas of Hookton is tasked by his liege lord to travel to Gascony to look for the Holy Grail. Taking a group of archers and men-at-arms with him he begins a process of raiding in the hope of bringing his cousin Guy Vexille out of hiding and within striking distance of his longbow. Needing a secure base of operations Thomas and his men take a small fortified town as their own. In its jail, awaiting execution by burning in the morning is a heretic woman accused of many things including witchcraft. Dismissing the charges and smitten by her ethereal beauty Thomas lets her free much to the annoyance of the townsfolk and several of his own men. But dissent within his troops are the least of Thomas’s problems. News of his actions in Gascony have reached the ears of the authorities – both temporal and ecclesiastical – and their forces are gathering against his small band. Meanwhile in the East and in the ports of the Mediterranean a strange sickness that kills without note of rank, age or sex is growing and could be the end of everything than man has built in his hubris.

Until the publication of his latest novel this was the last book in Cornwell’s Grail Quest trilogy which followed Thomas of Hookton’s journey from obscurity, through the Battle of Crecy and deeper still into the opening conflict that would become known as the Hundred Years War. Heretic would have been a fitting end to the series but now, I’m guessing, we’ll find out more about Thomas and his adventures against the French. As with all of Cornwell’s heroes Thomas is a misfit everywhere he goes. Although his family – or at least part of it – is highborn Thomas is far happier with the common men of his command. At the same time, because of his education, he can hold his own with the knights and lords he, through necessity, must serve with or serve under. Cynical of both church and state he is his own man with his own sense of personal honour and his own code of ethics he lives by. A consummate warrior he leads by example though constantly worries that he isn’t good enough to complete his mission or keep the men in his charge alive. Obviously Thomas can be compared to Cornwell’s great hero character Richard Sharpe and at first I thought that Thomas was just Sharpe transported 500 years into his past. Not so. Both Sharpe and Thomas are products of their time. Although they have much in common they are still very much their own men. After being gripped by Thomas’s tale in France I look forward to following him wherever he goes next. Recommended.  

[This is the first book in a series of 10 based in the Middle Ages. As with most of these things that period is fairly arbitrary and can vary from country to country. For the sake of convenience I’ve picked the English definition which is AD476 – 1485. Having basically a thousand years to work with should give me plenty of latitude. I’ll see what I can do with that!]  


smellincoffee said...

:-D What a way to start off a medieval series, with Cornwell.

CyberKitten said...

I'm book-ending Cornwell in this series of books so you'll see more Medieval Cornwell in a few months.... [grin]

smellincoffee said...

Ooh, would the new release be the other bookend?

CyberKitten said...


Now that would be telling wouldn't it? All will be revealed in good time - or actually way after good time as I presently have an 8 week review backlog...... But I am almost at the end on my 5th book in the Medieval cycle so you shouldn't have that long to wait.

Mumbles said...

I haven't read these, but I've read the Sharpe series and the Saxon series (which I love!), so I'll have to snap these up, won't I? I enjoyed reading--thanks for writing!


smellincoffee said...

Regardless, I'll look for it happily. I just finished another BC novel, "Copperhead". Things took a very interesting turn, but alas he wrapped those turns rather than build on them in subsequent novels.

CyberKitten said...

Mumbles said: I've read the Sharpe series and the Saxon series (which I love!), so I'll have to snap these up, won't I?

If you liked the Sharpe series (I haven't read any of the Saxon series yet so can't compare things) you'll definitely like this series too. Book 4 is just out in hardback so there's plenty for you to read.

Mumbles said: I enjoyed reading--thanks for writing!

Always glad to bring books to people's attention. I do a regular book review every Thursday and, until I reduce my review backlog a bit, alternate Monday's too. I have pretty wide tastes in books (and many other things) so I'm sure that you'll find something of interest.

...and Welcome to SaLT. I post something most days so if I bore or irritate you one day there might be something more interesting the next.

sc said: I just finished another BC novel, "Copperhead".

I've had his Civil War series for quite a while but never got around to picking them up. So many books so little time and all that!