Bernard Cornwell | Vagabond

"The Holy Grail, the most precious of all Christ’s bequests to man, lost these thousand years and more, and he could see it glowing in the sky like shining blood and about it, bright as the glittering crown of a saint, rays of dazzling shimmer filled the heaven."

This is the second book in Cornwell's The Grail Quest series. You can read my review of Harlequin, the first in the series here.

Having survived the battle of Crecy, Thomas of Hookton is now sent on a mission by the King to learn more about what his father claims to be the Holy Grail. Accompanied by Father Hobbe and his pregnant soon-to-be wife Eleanor, he sets off to find the Monk Brother Collimore who will hopefully be able to tell him more about this father and the grail. However he is thwarted by another party who is hot on the trail of the grail too. Collimore is questioned and murdered before Thomas can speak to him and alas, Eleanor and Father Hobbe are murdered too. Thomas carries on the mission with a new friend (technically a hostage) scottish Robbie Douglas. They travel to Thomas' home village where he is given a book of notes on the grail that his father had written and instructed not to give to Thomas until he was a grown man. More trials and tribulations await Thomas in this book as he furthers his quest for the grail, continuously questioning its existence. Expect more gore, drama, raping, pillage and swearing but so much entertainment!

I liked...

Thomas' character gets really gritty in this book. He goes into a dark place through a mixture of wanting revenge for Eleanor's death but also guilt because he couldn't protect her and his unborn child from being killed. He's lost the pony tail, made a name for himself and is on a mission. 

We come across Jeanette again and she still hasn't lost her fierce nature. After having been raped in the first book and losing her son because of his inheritance, she was in a very precarious position. She manages to claw her way out of destitution and although she's no longer rich, she at least has a house and a couple of servants. She also is being ravaged by vengeful thoughts and practises with her crossbow to be able to kill everyone that's wronged her. Her ultimate aim, is to get her son back.

I didn't like...

Trying to keep up with some of the characters. I don't know whether this was just me being incredibly special, but I really struggled in some of the faster paced sections with keeping up with which characters were which. Obviously you have the main characters and that was simple enough, But when it came to the many, many villains and their allies, I had to keep referring back to previous parts to remember who was who and which side they were on. 

Some of the fighting scenes did drag on just a teensy weensy bit...I know. I understand that this is Cornwell's thing. Describing these gory battle scenes in great detail. But I found eyes just skimming over these paragraphs and thinking "fighting...fighting...yep...fighting...fighting....yep, more fighting" until it got to a significant part of the story, Don't get me wrong, I love reading the detailed descriptions of the weapons and the battle tactics...but I didn't need to read paragraph after paragraph of people being stabbed and some one else being stabbed and someone else having their head cut off etc etc. But hey, everyone is different and I'm sure many a person will have enjoyed those segments.

Overall, I enjoyed the book and am eager to get stuck into the last installment, Heretic. 

Have you read this book? Discuss!

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  1. I too had trouble following the cast of characters and agree some of the battle scenes were long winded.
    I am also mystified as to when and the reason for Eleanor's death. I can see the scene in the monastery where we read a hand was placed over her mouth. I was disturbed that Thomas made little references and in the next chapter we see him sobbing over her death.

    How did she die?

    How did he find out about her death?

    I was actually reading my book in my GP surgery where we usually experience long waits. I wonder if I had a dose but continued to turn pages?


    1. I'm so glad you agree. I did have to go back and re-read a couple of pages to try and figure out exactly what happened to Eleanor!


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