1356 by Bernard Cornwell
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Poor Thomas always seems to get stuck looking for some relic. This time it is the Sword of St Peter known as la Malice and of course evil churchmen want it too.
The book begins with Thomas of Hookton (le Batard) employed by the Count of Labrouillade to retrieve his wife who has run off with another man. The Count is a particularly disgusting specimen who castrates his wife's lover and humiliates her. The greedy Count foolishly attempts to cheat Thomas and his men so Thomas attacks him, gets the money he is owed and at (his wife) Genevieve's urging takes Bertille with them.
A message arrives from Billy urging Thomas to find la Malice. Before he can set off to find it the Count of Labrouillade sends Roland to retrieve his wife. Roland is the Virgin Knight and full of quaint ideas about honor and chivalry. Thomas sends him packing and sets out for Montpelier to find out more about la Malice. Roland follows him and sets the town police on him but Thomas escapes. But while Thomas is in hiding Roland takes Genevieve and (their son) Hugh hostage, intending to exchange them for Bertille. Roland is dismayed when the Count of Labrouillade attempts to rape Genevieve and horrified when Father Marchant takes her eye out. Roland and Robbie help Genevieve and Hugh escape.
Roland intends to return to fight for France but then he meets Bertille and falls hopelessly in love with her. He then joins forces with Thomas so that he can kill Bertille's husband and they can marry. Roland also reveals that la Malice is in Poitiers. Unfortunately the evil churchmen get their first and take the sword.
Thomas and his men join the Black Prince they are hopelessly out numbered and trapped on a hill without food or water but they hold the line against the French charge and wind up taking the King of France and his youngest son prisoner. Thomas kills his enemies retrieves the sword and leaves it to be destroyed.
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