By Bernard Cornwell
Vagabond is the second book in the Grail series by Cornwell. It picks up after the final battle in The Archer’s Tale.
Thomas, an archer in the English army, is searching for the Holy Grail. He’s not sure if he believes it exists, and his friend and traveling companion, Father Hobbes, keeps reminding him of the promise he made to his dying father which involved another holy relic.
Most of France is under siege by the English and it’s not safe to be traveling for Thomas, Father Hobbes, and Eleanor, Thomas’s soon to be wife. They run into a band of English soldiers who are very interested in the treasure he is seeking. He soon finds himself back in an archer line and, during the battle, both Father Hobbes and Eleanor are killed by another group seeking the Grail. Wrought with grief, he finds new determination. He plans on hunting down the ruthless murderers and exacting revenge for Eleanor’s life.
I liked The Archer’s Tale, the first in the series, but didn’t get into it much. Vagabond moved much faster for me and I began liking Thomas instead of feeling sorry for him. There was still a lot to feel sorry for, but he becomes stronger and more determined which made him much more likable.
It’s a true quest book. Thomas is forever walking somewhere and somehow always seems to find himself in an archer line. He gets closer to the Grail with each fight and deals with an enormous amount a guilt along the way. People around him constantly die and you expect him to give up at any moment.
It’s a violent story. The life of an archer and man-at-arms is not clean, fun, or healthy but it makes for good reading. Cornwell has a way of clearly and very realistically describing battles, sword fights, and the damage an English bow can do. It’s not for the squeamish.