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Vagabond (Grail Quest Series #2)

Vagabond (Grail Quest Series #2)

3.9 157
by Bernard Cornwell, Tim Pigott-smith (Read by)

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1347 is a year of war and unrest. England's army is fighting in France, encouraging the Scots to invade their old enemy. Thomas of Hookton, send back to England to follow an ancient trail which suggests his family once owned the Holy Grail, instead becomes embroiled in the savage fight when the Scots come to Durham. Out of the horror he finds a new companion for


1347 is a year of war and unrest. England's army is fighting in France, encouraging the Scots to invade their old enemy. Thomas of Hookton, send back to England to follow an ancient trail which suggests his family once owned the Holy Grail, instead becomes embroiled in the savage fight when the Scots come to Durham. Out of the horror he finds a new companion for the quest, but also discovers a new enemy in a Dominican Inquisitor.

All Europe want the grail. Many may doubt it exists, but no one would willingly allow an enemy to find Christendom's most precious relic, and Thomas finds himself in a murderous race with the Inquisitor and with Guy de Vexille, the mysterious black rider who murdered Thomas' father.

Thomas' father bequeathed him a mysterious notebook which confirms the grail's existence and offers clues to where it might be hidden. But his rival have the advantage of the torture chamber of the Inquisition. Thomas, seeking help to decipher the book's cryptic pages, is delivered instead to his worst enemies.

He finds refuge in Brittany with the Countess of Armorica, but fate will not let him rest. He is thrust into one of the most desperate fights of the Hundred Years' War, the battle of la Roche-Derrien and, amidst the flames, arrows and butchery of that night he faces his enemies again.

Performed by Tim Pigott-Smith.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
The Hundred Years War is the bloody backdrop to this second volume of Cornwell's new series about the search for the Holy Grail (after The Archer's Tale). Like its predecessor, the novel follows Thomas of Hookton, an archer in the English army in the 14th century. Thomas is the bastard son of a recently murdered priest whose family claims it once possessed the Holy Grail. No one is certain the Holy Grail actually exists, but many believe it does, and kings are waging war and committing murder in the search for it. Thomas has a book of his father's, written in Latin and Hebrew, which might reveal clues to the Grail's location, if only he could make head or tails of it. But others are aware of the book's existence, and Thomas's motley enemies and rivals-including Guy Vexille, the French cousin who murdered his father; Bernard de Taillebourg, a Dominican Inquisitor who loves his job; and Sir Geoffrey Carr, a treacherous English knight-are all hot on his trail. The beleaguered young hero must also fight mercenaries, Scots and Frenchmen in gruesome, long-drawn-out battles. Cornwell is meticulous about historical facts and period detail, and his descriptions of butchery with arrow, mace and battleaxe are nothing if not convincing. As expected, the book culminates with battlefield slaughter on an epic scale. Cornwell fans will eat this up. (Dec. 1) Forecast: Cornwell's Richard Sharpe novels are justly popular, and this new series looks headed for similar success, backed by a strong marketing campaign. Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Another typically excellent Cornwell work, this novel is filled with action, adventure, rich historical atmosphere, and a hero who constantly finds himself in deeper and deeper trouble. Thomas, the quintessential doubting hero, is on a quest to discover whether his father ever truly possessed the Holy Grail, and if so, where this object now lies. The sequel to Archer's Tale (HarperCollins, 2001) carries Thomas from Scotland across England and eventually into France, as he pursues and is pursued by one enemy after another. Readers expecting more of what this author does so well will not be disappointed, and even those who have never before read one of his tales will find it easy to become immersed in the story. The characters are well drawn if shallow, but they are mature adults, without any of the typical traits that a young adult might find appealing. There is no romantic story here, simply a gritty, sometimes horrific tale of human greed, pride, and stupidity, told in realistic detail, including murder and torture. The novel is a good choice for collections in which historical fiction or Cornwell himself is already popular, or for sharing with that particular teen reader who is ready to make the transition to adult reading. VOYA Codes: 4Q 3P S A/YA (Better than most, marred only by occasional lapses; Will appeal with pushing; Senior High, defined as grades 10 to 12; Adult and Young Adult). 2002, HarperCollins, 405p,
— Gillian Wiseman
Library Journal
In this sequel to The Archer's Tale, gifted archer Thomas of Hookton continues his quest to avenge his father's murder and to find the Holy Grail, which King Edward III believes will help England defeat the French. Thomas finds himself embroiled in a series of events beginning with the Battle of Neville's Cross (October 1346) and ending with the English victory at La Roche-Derrien (spring 1347). Accomplished historical novelist Cornwell, creator of the "Richard Sharpe" and "Nathaniel Starbuck" series, delivers plenty of action. From English and French battlefields to the high seas and the Inquisitor's torture chamber, we follow Thomas as he defends his king, pursues his enemies, and seeks the truth of the Grail. With its wealth of likable characters and historical detail, this enjoyable, fast-paced novel will probably generate renewed interest in the Grail and the Hundred Years' War. Highly recommended for most public libraries. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 8/02.]-Jean Langlais, St. Charles P.L., IL Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Continuing the series that began with The Archer's Tale (2001), adventure master Cornwell throws his lusty young hero Thomas of Hookton up against both the French and the Inquisition. Opening with a fine small battle on the Scottish border, Cornwell continues his historically based, wildly entertaining trek through the Hundred Years War, a tale that hangs on the adventures of a superb English bowman at a time when English longbows pretty much ruled the battlefield. Thomas, last seen at the battle of Crecy, has trudged up north with orders from Edward Plantagenet to see a monk in Durham about a legend. The legend is The Grail, and Thomas is involved because his priestly father Ralph de Vexille, a French fugitive, left him a multilingual diary full of references to the sacred vessel. The Vexilles believed they had possession of the cup, and the diary may lead to its recovery. Oxford dropout Thomas can read his father's Latin and a bit of the Greek, but the Hebrew's got him stumped. Marching with the lad are his pregnant sweetheart and a kindly monk, both doomed to die at the hands of the divinely sinister Dominican inquisitor Bernard de Taillebourg, who, with his dark and moody servant Guy de Trexille (Thomas's psychotic cousin), lusts after the diary. Before Thomas can get his answers he's roped into an English skirmish with raiding Scots. Encouraged by their French allies, the savage northerners have massed in huge numbers, but their drums and battle-axes are no match for the handful of archers Tom joins. Thomas makes an enemy of a nasty bankrupt knight and poor Eleanor falls victim to the sadistic de Taillebourg, but Thomas survives to continue his quest for the grail accompanied bycheerful prisoner Robbie Douglas. Their travels, always just a few steps ahead of the damned Dominican and the jealous Sir Geoffrey, take them to Brittany, scene of earlier romance, where the English have a tenuous toehold and where de Taillebourg has equally perfidious allies. There will be torture, siege, and treachery. Historically accurate and huge fun. Vintage Cornwell.

Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
Grail Quest Series , #2
Edition description:
Abridged, 4 Cassettes
Product dimensions:
4.30(w) x 7.00(h) x 1.10(d)

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

It was October, the time of the year's dying when cattle were being slaughtered before winter and when the northern winds brought a promise of ice. The chestnut leaves had turned golden, the beeches were trees of flame and the oaks were made from bronze. Thomas of Hookton, with his woman, Eleanor, and his friend, Father Hobbe, came to the upland farm at dusk and the farmer refused to open his door, but shouted through the wood that the travelers could sleep in the byre. Rain rattled on the moldering thatch. Thomas led their one horse under the roof that they shared with a woodpile, six pigs in a stout timber pen and a scattering of feathers where a hen had been plucked. The feathers reminded Father Hobbe that it was St. Gallus's day and he told Eleanor how the blessed saint, coming home in a winter's night, had found a bear stealing his dinner. "He told the animal off!" Father Hobbe said. "He gave it a right talking-to, he did, and then he made it fetch his firewood."

"I've seen a picture of that," Eleanor said. "Didn't the bear become his servant?"

"That's because Gallus was a holy man," Father Hobbe explained. "Bears wouldn't fetch firewood for just anyone! Only for a holy man."

"A holy man," Thomas put in, "who is the patron saint of hens." Thomas knew all about the saints, more indeed than Father Hobbe. "Why would a chicken want a saint?" he inquired sarcastically.

"Gallus is the patron of hens?" Eleanor asked, confused by Thomas's tone. "Not bears?"

"Of hens," Father Hobbe confirmed. "Indeed of all poultry."

"But why?" Eleanor wanted to know.

"Because he once expelled a wicked demon from a younggirl." Father Hobbe, broad-faced, hair like a stickleback's spines, peasant-born, stocky, young and eager, liked to tell stories of the blessed saints. "A whole bundle of bishops had tried to drive the demon out," he went on, "and they had all failed, but the blessed Gallus came along and he cursed the demon. He cursed it! And it screeched in terror" -- Father Hobbe waved his hands in the air to imitate the evil spirit's panic -- "and then it fled from her body, it did, and it looked just like a black hen -- a pullet. A black pullet."

"I've never seen a picture of that," Eleanor remarked in her accented English, then, gazing out through the byre door, "but I'd like to see a real bear carrying firewood," she added wistfully.

Thomas sat beside her and stared into the wet dusk, which was hazed by a small mist. He was not sure it really was St. Gallus's day for he had lost his reckoning while they traveled. Perhaps it was already St. Audrey's day? It was October, he knew that, and he knew that one thousand, three hundred and forty-six years had passed since Christ had been born, but he was not sure which day it was. It was easy to lose count. His father had once recited all the Sunday services on a Saturday and he had had to do them again the next day. Thomas surreptitiously made the sign of the cross. He was a priest's bastard and that was said to bring bad luck. He shivered. There was a heaviness in the air that owed nothing to the setting sun nor to the rain clouds nor to the mist. God help us, he thought, but there was an evil in this dusk and he made the sign of the cross again and said a silent prayer to St. Gallus and his obedient bear. There had been a dancing bear in London, its teeth nothing but rotted yellow stumps and its brown flanks matted with blood from its owner's goad. The street dogs had snarled at it, slunk about it and shrank back when the bear swung on them.

"How far to Durham?" Eleanor asked, this time speaking French, her native language.

"Tomorrow, I think," Thomas answered, still gazing north to where the heavy dark was shrouding the land. "She asked," he explained in English to Father Hobbe, "when we would reach Durham."

"Tomorrow, pray God," the priest said.

"Tomorrow you can rest," Thomas promised Eleanor in French. She was pregnant with a child that, God willing, would be born in the springtime. Thomas was not sure how he felt about being a father. It seemed too early for him to become responsible, but Eleanor was happy and he liked to please her and so he told her he was happy as well. Some of the time, that was even true.

"And tomorrow," Father Hobbe said, "we shall fetch our answers."

"Tomorrow," Thomas corrected him, "we shall ask our questions."

"God will not let us come this far to be disappointed," Father Hobbe said, and then, to keep Thomas from arguing, he laid out their meager supper. "That's all that's left of the bread," he said, "and we should save some of the cheese and an apple for breakfast." He made the sign of the cross over the food, blessing it, then broke the hard bread into three pieces. "We should eat before nightfall."

Darkness brought a brittle cold. A brief shower passed and after it the wind dropped. Thomas slept closest to the byre door and sometime after the wind died he woke because there was a light in the northern sky.

He rolled over, sat up and he forgot that he was cold, forgot his hunger, forgot all the small nagging discomforts of life, for he could see the Grail. 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.

Vagabond. Copyright © by Bernard Cornwell. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

Meet the Author

BERNARD CORNWELL is the author of the acclaimed New York Times bestselling Saxon Tales series, which includes The Last Kingdom, The Pale Horseman, Lords of the North, Sword Song, The Burning Land, Death of Kings, The Pagan Lord, and, most recently, The Empty Throne, and which serves as the basis for the hit television series The Last Kingdom. He lives with his wife on Cape Cod and in Charleston, South Carolina.

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Vagabond 3.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 157 reviews.
Mikemouse More than 1 year ago
fast paced, great historic details
Guest More than 1 year ago
Beginning where The Archer¿s Tale left off after the battle of Crecy, Vagabond continues the tale of Thomas of Hookton, by sending him back to England in search of the Holy Grail. It may sound a little hokey, but it makes for a great story. During his quest Thomas has to fight against the Scot¿s at the battle of Neville¿s Cross, and face his worst memories when he returns to the ruins of his hometown of Hookton. Along the way Thomas meets up with new friends and foes and ultimately ends up back where he began his wanderings in France. Vagabond has it¿s share of great battle scenes and interesting characters but it is obvious that it was written as part of a series and ends with no resolution. The reader must continue on to Heretic for the conclusion of Thomas¿ tale.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I bought this series (Grail Quest) after having read all of the Saxon Tales books available to date. The Archer's tale, the first in the three book series was an easier read than this second book. After a while all the battle scenes seem the same, though the dynamic of characters that are intertwined in search of the grail keeps you interested enough to keep reading. I enjoyed the Saxon Tales much more, but the Grail Quest series is a close second. Vagabond, in particular has a few squeamish portrayals directed at the Inquisitioners, but characters in this series are not as in-depth as other of Cornwell's works.
stdon More than 1 year ago
After reading 4 of Bernard Cornwell's books, Angincourt and the three Grail series, I have to say I am disappointed. Unlike other novel series written by others with a historical bent, I found these books to be rather flat. The main characters in all books were without any real personality that I could identify with. I couldn't imagine myself "there". In all, the main character was a very two dimensional figure as were the supporting characters. Mr. Cornwell had an excellent topic and chance but I have to say, for me, miffed it. He would do well to read Some Patrick O'Brian, C.S. Forester and Dewey Lambdin to see how to bring life and flavor to characters. I'm sure Mr. Cornwell did his research well but needs to learn how to add real flavor to the pot. As I said for me I was looking forward to reading and gave him another chance after reading Angincourt with the three Grail series but he left me flat. If this is typical I won't purchase another book by him.
Shipper22 More than 1 year ago
Bernard Cornwell has written another thoroughly enjoyable novel. The lead character is believable, tough when he needs to be, but by no means indestructible. A great weekend read.
Jilseponie More than 1 year ago
"Vagabond" consists of two huge battles; one in England and one in France. Thomas of Hookton, after traveling to England to speak to a monk about his father, is put upon the path of the grail again, but ends up coming to the aid of a friend in France. Cornwell writes engaging descriptions of the battles, describing the fortifications of both sides. I'm looking forward to reading the final book in the trilogy to see if Thomas finds the grail.
Guest More than 1 year ago
You definitely need to read The Archer's Tale before getting into this book. I'm only close to half way through Vagabond but I couldn't wait to express on here what I think about this book. It seems that Thomas kind of hits a low point in his life. He loses some very dear friends and gains some very dangerous new enemies. On top of that he is pulled into the Scottish invasion in Northern England and gets entangled in more bloody conflict. Thomas nearly hits rock bottom due to some hard losses but manages to keep his eyes set on what he is after. I think this is meant to show that he is not only physically strong but emotionally strong as well. A wonderful second book to the series and I can't wait to finish and move on to the tales' conclusion, Heretic.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book was amazing, after the Archer's Tale, I couldn't put it down! Thomas grows to become a most excellent archer; through hardship and torture he endures to meet the reader's expectations. This piece of writing deffinetly impressed me. Read Vagabond!
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stevie15 More than 1 year ago
This is the second book in the continuing series about an Archer. It is a fantastic book that is part of the continuing quest for the Holy Grail.
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The story continues for the Archer, the battle descriptions are intense and at times repetitive, and the general violence unleashed after battle on the inhabitants of the the various towns and villages is graphic, but I have no doubt it is a realistic account of what really happened. looking forward to part 3.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Great series!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago