The historical fiction novel Heretic by Bernard Cornwell is the third and final novel in the Grail Quest Series. For years, Thomas of Hookton has sought the truth of his family and the secrets behind the Holy Grail. It is the time of the Hundred Years War between England and France, and Thomas, along with his band of fellow archers and Scottish friend, goes south into Gascony, leaving King Edward III’s army to seek out his father’s ancestral home of Astarac and hopefully uncover the connection with his family and the Grail.
Thomas and his companions take a castle in Gascony, and from there began to plunder the French countryside. By doing so, Thomas hopes to draw the attention of his rival Guy Vexille, who may hold important information concerning the Grail. Guy Vexille, however, is not the only one in search of the Grail, and Thomas — through his actions — also draws the attention of a local lord, who brings an army to besiege the castle, as well as a greedy bishop who is seeking to use the power of the Grail for his religious aspirations.
Heretic, like the other two Grail Quest novels (The Archer’s Tale and Vagabond) has strong characters and a solid plot, though in my opinion has a slightly different feel to it — whether writing style or the general tone, it’s difficult to say exactly — but it just doesn’t have quite the same “punch” as the other two novels. There are no real sweeping, epic-type battles in this novel like in The Archer’s Tale (Crecy) or Vagabond (Neville’s Cross and La Roche Derrien), and the “leading lady” who is a heretic (hence the name of the book) is not all that interesting.
Regardless, Heretic is worth the read as it really delves into Thomas’s character even more than the first two novels, and you — along with Thomas — gain a better understanding of who he is and what, if any, connection his family has to the Grail; and in the end, when the truth is finally uncovered, Thomas is faced with an important decision that only he alone can make.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars
If I recall correctly, none (or maybe just most) of the battles in this book actually happened, which is probably why they were less engaging. Nothing’s quite as good as real history, especially when it comes to the Hundred Years’ War. 😉
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Meghan, you may be right about that. It’s been a while since I’ve read the book, but now that you mention it, I don’t recall any of the battles being real either.