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, 1356. 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. Its protagonist Nick Hook is also an archer, but he's unrelated to the now-famous Thomas.Not to be confused with the GrailQuest series of gamebooks by J.H. Brennan.
The Grail Quest provides example of the following tropes:
A Date with Rosie Palms: The Lord Douglas guesses this is the reason for the Virgin Knight's right arm being so strong
Annoying Arrows: Usually averted since longbows and crossbows are serious business on the field, arrows and bolts being able to pierce chain mail armour. However, they can't pierce the more expensive plate armour, though the force of enough hits can help wear down a man wearing it.
Antagonist Title: The first book. The main villain of the trilogy is Guy Vexille, called "the Harlequin" and Thomas's cousin. Today "Harlequin" just refers to a kind of clown, but it's an Italian term meaning "the Devil's horseman" However, the English archers are also called the same thing in French, "hellequin".
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.
Brave Scot: Sir Robbie Douglas, William Douglas, The Lord Douglas - basically if they're Scottish with the name Douglas in this series they aren't going to be a coward
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.
Christianity Is Catholic: Due to the setting. But Catharism, branded heresy, also plays a pivotal role in the plot. The villainous Vexilles had sided with the Cathars a century before the story began, and their motivation throughout this series is to bring down the Church.
The Conspiracy: The Vexilles' plan is to acquire the most holy relics of Christendom and ultimately to destroy the Roman Catholic Church.
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.
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."
Good Scars, Evil Scars: Sir Guillaume is brutally scarred from an encounter with the Harlequin. He isn't evil, but he's definitely not someone you'd normally want to cross.
Hero Antagonist: Let's face it — the Sire Roland de Verrec in 1356 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 (still a sword, but more akin to a cleaver) 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.
Heroic BSOD: Jeanette has one after being raped by Duke Charles.
Honour Before Reason: King John of Bohemia allies with the French at the Battle of Crécy and dies charging into combat when the day is lost. He's also blind. In general, many of the more chivalrous knights in the series basically run on this mindset.
I Gave My Word: Robbie Douglas's reason for not wanting to fight the English.
Impoverished Patrician: Despite his noble birth, Sir Simon Jekyll inherited his family's debt and is penniless as a result. The fact that many of the lowborn mercenary captains are wealthier than he is galls him to no end.
Info Dump: Brother Germain gives one of these about midway through the first book, explaining the backstory and motivations of the Vexilles. Later on in the same book, Guy Vexille himself gives his own version of this.
It's All About Me: Sir Simon Jekyll's default mode. He has a self-pitying tendency to see himself as the victim in all situations, and cast the people he has wronged as the transgressors.
Let's Fight Like Gentlemen: One skirmish in Harlequin is between equal numbers of English and French horsemen, arranged with a formal challenge. The archers mock them for thinking they're the "bloody Knights of the Round Table".
Love at First Sight: Roland and Bertille. To the point where he joins the English within a few hours of meeting her.
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.
Reasonable Authority Figure: Until circumstances force him to leave, Thomas first serves under a troop of archers and men-at-arms led by the commoner William Skeat, who becomes something of a father figure to him. Later Thomas hits it off well with the Earl of Northampton, who becomes his liege.
Sir Guillaume d'Evecque is known as "the lord of the sea and of the land" because of his piratical tendencies.
Guy Vexille calls himself "The Harlequin".
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.
War for Fun and Profit: Many characters on both sides have this mentality, especially the English hellequin who are charged with pillaging and ravaging the French countryside.
You Have Failed Me: King Philip pulls this on his Genoese crossbowmen at the Battle of Crécy. After they are badly beaten by the English archers in the opening skirmish, the frustrated king orders his horsemen to slaughter the rest of them.