Vagabond (Reviews)

Thu 10 Oct 2002
Evening Standard (London)

This is the second in Bernard Cornwell’s Grail Quest series. The first, Harlequin, introduced the hero, Thomas of Hookton, an archer in the English army at the time of the Hundred Years War, and concluded with the defeat of the French at Crecy in 1346. Thomas is now back in England, searching for evidence as to the whereabouts of the Grail, which his crazed father – a priest (Thomas is illegitimate) and Cathar from southern France, now dead – claimed he once possessed. But the quest has become difficult; powerful interests have joined the search. It’s slightly disappointing that the fresh-faced and innocent Thomas has become a grim, black-visaged warrior; a medieval Sharpe, in fact. But this is more than redeemed by the two magnificent battles – at Neville’s Cross, near Durham, and at Le Roche-Derrien, in Brittany – which open and close the book. No one knows better than Cornwell the different sounds produced when a long-bow’s goose-feathered clothyard arrow strikes flesh, shield, chain mail or plate armour; no one can better describe the gory hacking, stabbing and bludgeoning, with sword, pike, lance, mace and morning-star, that was hand-to-hand fighting. These scenes even beat the best of Sharpe.