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Thursday, May 8, 2008

Heretic - Bernard Cornwell

Heretic is the third and final book in the Grail Quest series by historical fiction writer, Bernard Cornwell, which takes place in the 14th century England and France.

The protagonist, Thomas of Hookton, is hot on the rumor and relic trail of the Holy Grail. But many things are in his way. The story continues with the siege and capture of Calais, a historical event of 1347. Thomas is beginning to gather men-at-arms and archers under his leadership. But while he has loyalties to a certain few nobles, he also is looking for a heretic, a warrior, a cousin...Guy Vexille. Vexille is a man who, like Thomas, descends from a Christian heretic faction that supposedly possessed the Grail. Vexille, while related to Thomas, is Thomas' mortal enemy and Vexille is even more obsessed with finding the Grail than Thomas. They will stop and nothing to destroy each other.

The Black Plague also enters into this story. They called it pestilence back then but it was a devastating disease that rapidly spread and rapidly killed.

As the story winds to a climax, Thomas must face his unfortunate circumstances and follow the leads he's been given to find the truth surrounding his family history and the Holy Grail.

This has been an enjoyable series. It seems difficult to tackle an overdone historical legend/myth like the Holy Grail. The author did a great job at keeping the mystery and not cheapening the subject. One different aspect of this series from his "older" books is that all parties involved profess to be Christian, as opposed to the Druid/pagan cults of ancient Britian competing with Christianity. The other religious aspect frequently touched on is the practice of relic worship in the Middle Ages. Bones from the donkey that Jesus rode in Jerusalem, and angel's wing, The crown of thorns, a saints girdle. This is one aspect of Cornwell's writing that always entertains is the weirdness of religious practices, especially the corruptions of the Christian church.

Good series.

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