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January 21, 2006

The Grail Trilogy

Bernard Cornwell - The series includes:
The Archer’s Tale–ISBN-0060505257
The Vagabond–ISBN-0060532688
The Heretic-ISBN-006053284X

Cornwell, considered the best historical-adventure fiction writer currently active, proves it in this trilogy.

The history is carefully researched, and “reported” as factually as possible, allowing for the fictional nature of the work. As did Michael Shaara in Killer Angels, (and his son in the rest of their trilogy) Cornwell brings his characters to life, giving them depth, and rendering the stories far more interesting than reading about the events in a history book.

The principals are people who actually existed, and did the things of which he writes. The fiction is in side events, without which the actions might be drab, if not uneventful.

He writes of the few years following 1342, considered to be the inaugural conflicts of the “100 years war” between England and France. He describes major conflicts of that period in riveting detail, and includes much interesting information about life in those times.

The books surround the adventures of Thomas of Hookton, the fictional protagonist. He is an archer in the king's army and the bastard son of a mad priest exiled to a remote English village. His father, not incidentally, is the scion of a noble French family rumored to have once possessed the treasured, legendary Holy Grail. Needless to say, the companion issue is Thomas' search for the Grail, and myriad events along the way.

The serial adventures with Thomas are anchored by the battles between the French and their allies, and the English. Cornwell provides absorbingly vivid details of the weapons, tactics, and the incredible carnage and brutality of those conflicts.

It reminds that we in the Christian West are only about 800 years removed from the primitive attitudes of the Islamic fundamentalists. Indeed the parallels are sometimes quite striking. The viciousness of the Europeans, their wars, and the treatment of each other, not to mention their enemies, is sufficient exhilarating as to enrapture the most sadistic fundamentalists of the Arab world. Even, or perhaps especially, the behavior of the Catholic Church of the era (that of the inquisition) is not dissimilar to the rabid Muslims of today (a point I have made before when noting that the Muslims desperately need their own "reformation.")

Suffice it to say that this is an interesting series . . . and well worth the read both as entertainment, and an introduction to the history of the period.

Posted by respeto at January 21, 2006 5:18 PM