Summary and book reviews of Heretic by Bernard Cornwell

Heretic

By Bernard Cornwell

Heretic
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  • Hardcover: Oct 2003,
    368 pages.
    Paperback: Sep 2004,
    432 pages.

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Book Summary

New York Times bestselling author Bernard Cornwell has written his masterpiece, a roiling saga about love, honor, belief -- and, above all, about bravery in its many forms -- in which a young warrior's religious heritage sets him on a quest for a mysterious treasure rumored to be the Holy Grail itself.

Thomas of Hookton is a young man but already a seasoned veteran of King Edward's army. His fearlessness and uncanny prowess with the longbow make him a natural leader in what will be remembered as the Hundred Years' War. Accompanied by a small but able band of soldiers -- among them Sir Guillaume (a landless lord seeking to regain his fortune as a mercenary) and Robbie Douglas (a Scottish prisoner spared by Thomas, and who now serves him loyally) Thomas is sent to Gascony to capture the castle of Astarac. But he has ulterior motives for accepting the charge: Gascony is the home both of his forebears and of the black knight -- Guy de Vexille -- who brutally slaughtered his father, a priest, when Thomas was a lad. It is also reputed to be the place where the Grail was last seen.

While capturing Astarac, Thomas learns of a tragedy in the making: a beautiful young woman named Genevieve, innocent if not pious, is to be burned as a heretic for refusing to adhere to the strict religious guidelines of the day. Thomas prevents the corrupt local priest from carrying out his "God given" duty -- a sacrilege that taints Thomas with the same heretical brush, and which turns him into an outcast, even among his own men. Eventually he and Genevieve have no choice but to flee across a landscape of blood and fire. While hidden away at a monastery, they learn of a plot involving the creation of an imitation Grail for a diabolical end, and they witness' the murder of a trusted priest at the hands of the man Thomas has been chasing his entire adult life -- Guy de Vexille.

At last reconciled with his allies, Thomas leads his brave band in a bloody battle to the death, the outcome of which could determine the seat of power -- and the direction of Christendom -- forevermore.

An epic saga steeped in myth and legend, Heretic presents a portrait of the fourteenth century -- and, especially, of the fate of the Holy Grail -- as only master storyteller Bernard Cornwell can.

Chapter One

The Count of Berat was old, pious and learned. He had lived sixty-five years and liked to boast that he had not left his fiefdom for the last forty of them. His stronghold was the great castle of Berat. It stood on a limestone hill above the town of Berat, which was almost surrounded by the River Berat that made the county of Berat so fertile. There were olives, grapes, pears, plums, barley and women. The Count liked them all. He had married five times, each new wife younger than the last, but none had provided him with a child. He had not even spawned a bastard on a milkmaid though, God knew, it was not for lack of trying.

That absence of children had persuaded the Count that God had cursed him and so in his old age he had surrounded himself with priests. The town had a cathedral and eighteen churches, with a bishop, canons and priests to fill them, and there was a house of Dominican friars by the east gate. The Count blessed the town with two new churches and ...

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Reviews

Media Reviews
Library Journal

Cornwell delivers intense and detailed battle action to illustrate just how mad men will be driven by the grail....Highly recommended.

Kirkus Reviews

The usual Cornwell bull's-eye.

Booklist - Margaret Flanagan

Oozing with all the blood, gore, and action that fans of Cornwell's graphically detailed historical fiction have come to expect, the conclusion of this gripping trilogy is on target to please a ready-made audience.

Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Cornwell is a master of the historical action novel, and he outdoes himself again.

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