Cornwell is a master of the historical action novel, and he outdoes himself again with this gripping third volume in his Grail Quest series, set during the bloody Hundred Years' War (The Archer's Tale; Vagabond). For years, English archer Thomas of Hookton has been searching for the Holy Grail. Thomas is not certain it ever existed, but obscure clues link his family to the mysterious vessel. In 1347, driven by his desire to plumb the truth of the Grail as well as to earn money from the plunder of French lands and property, Thomas and a small group of soldiers capture a castle in Gascony, the homeland of Thomas's father. Thomas hopes to hold the castle against the French, raid the countryside for loot and draw the attention of his evil cousin Guy Vexille, a French nobleman who murdered Thomas's father and who may have information about the Grail. Vexille appears, but so does the army of a local lord, sent to besiege the castle, and the vicious brother of a treacherous and cunning bishop who is determined to secure the Grail. Fighting honorably amid extreme brutality, Thomas is aided by loyal English archers, English and French men-at-arms, local bandits, a Scottish mercenary and a heretic girl with unusual powers. Outnumbered by his enemies, he faces the might of a huge cannon and the power of the Church's greed—not to mention the dreaded Black Death. Most daunting of all, however, is the decision Thomas must make when he finally discovers the truth about the Holy Grail. Graphic battlefield action, strong characters and sharp plotting are Cornwell's trademarks, and his fans will love this latest melee. (Oct. 7)
Forecast:The Grail Quest books sell even faster than Cornwell's popular Napoleonic War series, and this is the best in the series so far. Expect it to fly off shelves.