Bernard Cornwell | Heretic

“It would cause nothing but madness, Thomas thought. Men would fight for it, lie for it, cheat for it, betray for it and die for it. The Church would make money from it. It would cause nothing but evil, he thought, for it stirred horror from men's hearts,”

This Review Contains Spoilers!!

In the last of Bernard Cornwell's Grail Quest series, Heretic, Thomas of Hookton finds himself getting closer and closer to the ultimate prize in Christendom...The Holy Grail. Although no longer needed on the front line as there is a temporary truce between England and France, Thomas takes a band of archers and men at arms to capture a castle in Gascony,  the region in the south of france where his ancestors are from.

The minute he arrives, he saves a heretic girl from being burned at the stake and this instantly gets him labelled as a heretic too. He is forced to go on the run with Genevieve and continue his quest for the Holy Grail with only her for company. He feels a bond with Genevieve because she too was tortured at the hands of the church.

Thomas is up against some formidable enemies (I mean...this quest would be pretty boring without a few baddies). His cousin Guy Vexille is also searching for the Holy Grail in order to bring peace to Christendom and end sin. Others want the Grail to bring pilgrims and profit to their pockets.

I liked...

The fact that we get a sense in this book of really just how corrupt the church could be and how much power they had. The fear of being excommunicated meant that people would do just about anything to stay in favour with the church. This is demonstrated when Robbie is tempted to turn Thomas and Genevieve over to the priests to save his own soul. 

Once again, Cornwell's fantastic attention to detail with regards to medieval weaponry. I learned so much about the famous english archers' bows, swords, shields, armour and just every weapon conceivable. Seriously, I'm learning at the same time as being entertained!

I didn't like...

I don't understand why the character of Jeanette, our Blackbird, just didn't feature at all in this book. She was a major part of the first novel, and then appeared as a sort of saviour character in the second we were almost lead to believe that she would be his companion on his quest for the grail...but nothing. Did Cornwell just not like this character any more? Did she ever actually get her son back? Was her fortune ever restored?? Hello?!?

I'm sorry...but to me it was really obvious where and what the Holy Grail was, throughout the series. In the first book, Harlequin, we come across it...and throughout the entire series I was just hoping that I was wrong because I thought it was far too obvious. But no...the Holy Grail is a clay bowl. It's a fantastic twist in the tale that the Grail is just a lowly bowl...but the fact that we were introduced to it so early on in the series kind of ruined that surprise element for me.

I don't really feel like the whole issue of the missing Lance (st George's lance that he supposedly killed the dragon with) was wholly resolved. I'm sat here wracking my brains...and despite having read the entire series...I can't actually remember what happened to it. Did Thomas actually ever retrieve it?

Overall, I enjoyed this book as I have done with all Bernard Cornwell's novels so far. I gave this book 4 out of 5 stars.

Read my reviews of the previous books in the series, Harlequin and Vagabond.

Have you read this book? What did you think? Discuss!

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