The Grail Quest series by Bernard Cornwell
(originally a trilogy, but now extended to four books) is about an archer called Thomas of Hookton, bastard son of a French priest, who lives during the Hundred Years War
. When his Doomed Hometown
is attacked, he lends his archery skills to the English army, while hunting for the people who killed his father and stole a relic purported to be the lance of St. George. Eventually his path leads him on a quest for the Holy Grail
So far in the series are:
And, set ten years later
. This time he and dark forces are after the purported sword of St. Peter.
Another Cornwell novel, Agincourt
, is set in the same continuity but is more of a Spiritual Successor
than a true sequel.
- Archer Archetype: Thomas of Hookton starts out this way — a haughty loner, unskilled in hand-to-hand combat but lethal at range — before growing into a capable leader of men.
- Badass Preacher: Of particular note is Fra Ferdinant, an old monk pushing 60 — who at the start of 1356 kills three trained soldiers with an old sword which doesn't even have a proper handle.
- Bling of War: Knights in shining armour, dressed in bright colours, with ostrich feathers on their helmets. Justified in that this is a way to aid identification on the battlefield; the text notes that when the Captal de Buch goes scouting, he switches to plain brown clothing.
- Blood Knight: Plenty. Perhaps the most notable is Sculley the Scotsman in 1356, who gets very upset when he realises he hasn't killed anyone in over a month.
- Celibate Hero: Roland thinks he's this — he believes the Virgin Mary has ordered him to remain chaste until he marries, and spends his life looking for worthy quests.
- Corrupt Church: A Cornwell staple, though individual priests are protagonists, and by 1356 Thomas has become remarkably devout, giving a lot of money to the church to make up for the men he has killed — despite having been excommunicated.
- Deadpan Snarker
- Eye Scream: Father Marchant's preferred method of interrogation.
- Friendly Enemy: Sir Guillaume d'Eveque kills Thomas's father. Later, he and Thomas become allies, and Thomas marries his daughter.
- Good Is Not Dumb: A minor example from Roland, a tournament champion notable for his chivalry and idealism. Ahead of the Battle of Poitiers he faces a French knight in single combat; his opponent's friends give him advice based on their knowledge of Roland's jousting technique. The knight is then shocked when the first thing Roland does is kill his horse, telling him: "This isn't a tournament."
- Hero Antagonist: Let's face it — the Sire Roland de Verrec is a genuinely good and honourable man, expecially compared to the antiheroic Thomas Hookton. He starts out as an enemy, before honour (and love) lead him to change sides.
- Heroes Prefer Swords: Largely averted — when he has to fight hand-to-hand Thomas favours a falchion or a pole-axe, while pretty much every man-at-arms on both sides will bring a mace or an axe to the field in order to defeat their enemies' armour.
- Heroic Bastard: Thomas — and the bastard son of a priest, no less. It doesn't stop him from occasionally laying claim to his father's family title.
- I Gave My Word: Robbie Douglas's reason for not wanting to fight the English.
- The Magnificent: By 1356, Thomas is known among the French as Le Batard, and often introduces himself as such.
- Love at First Sight: Roland and Bertille. To the point where he joins the English within a few hours of meeting her.
- Market-Based Title: Harlequin has the title The Archer's Tale in the US because of the Harlequin Romance Novel brand. 1356 was also supposed to be named Slaughteryard.
- Proud Warrior Race Guy: The Scots and the Gascons are presented as this, in very different ways. The Scots are half-feral savages, worringly eager to kill the English and disdainful of negotiation and peace. The Gascons are courageous, chivalrous, and deadly.
- Royals Who Actually Do Something: King Edward III, King Jean le Bon, and the Black Prince. The "something" here includes leading men into battle, and stealing Thomas's girlfriend. The Dauphin does his best, but is sadly ineffectual.
- Shout Out: 'And so, in the dusk, Roland to the dark tower came.'
- Take That: The books contain a couple towards Braveheart, mostly around the blue facepaint.
- Tall, Dark and Handsome: Thomas.