Another first for me as I have never reviewed a short story and found it a bit more difficult to do than for a full length novel. This story is a bit of a departure from the author’s two excellent novels about Robin Hood as the subject is The Knights Hospitaller and has an element of fantasy as well though it does feature Sir Richard-at-Lee who does appear in Wolf’s Head and The Wolf and the Raven. It takes place on the island of Rhodes and concerns the mysterious disappearance of many people on the island including some of the Hospitaller personnel. It seems that an ancient evil has arisen, the god Dagon and he requires sacrifices of the most heinous kind. Sir Richard is charged with the task of searching out what is causing the disappearances. I found the story to be very entertaining and the action/plot twists to be exciting and well written. The scenes involving the rites of the evil Dagon to be as grisly as one would hope and the fears of those involved in the rooting out of this cult to be very real and thus makes for an excellent tale. 5 stars.
Sometimes I bemoan the fact that I have too many books to read which means that it takes me a while to get to them all. I bought Brethren months ago but only recently did it rise to the top of my to be read pile. Once I started reading it I was chagrined that I hadn’t read it sooner. This is one terrific tale of the 13th century and the turmoil between East and West, between Christian and Muslim and between the various knight orders especially of the Templars and Hospitallers. It seems that everyone wants to bring the Templars down and they all go to great lengths to pursue that agenda. The author has put together what I think is a microcosm of what secular and religious powers are at their worst and has wrapped that up in a drama filled, emotionally tense story. The characters are all too human, some are even, well let’s say subhuman and the plot and twists are sublime. Now that I have the first book under my belt I will for sure be tackling the rest of the series with great anticipation. 5 stars.
About the author:
Robyn Young was born in Oxford and grew up in the Midlands and a fishing village in Devon, during which time she won awards for poetry and edited a regular page in a regional newspaper. After hitchhiking to Brighton at 19, she worked as a festival organiser, a music promoter and a financial advisor. She wrote two novels before gaining a Masters in Creative Writing at the University of Sussex.
Her first published novel, BRETHREN, went straight into the Sunday Times top ten, where it remained for five weeks, becoming the bestselling hardback debut of the year. It entered the New York Times top twenty on publication in the US and was named book of the year by German newspaper Bild. Her second novel, CRUSADE, reached number 2 and REQUIEM completed the trilogy. In 2007, Robyn was named one of Waterstone’s twenty-five ‘authors of the future’, judged by a panel of one hundred industry insiders who were asked to nominate the authors they believed would contribute the greatest body of work over the next quarter century.
The inspiration for Robyn’s new bestselling trilogy, which began in 2010 with INSURRECTION and continued in 2012 with RENEGADE, was inspired by a research trip to Scotland and is based on the life of Robert Bruce. The third novel, KINGDOM, will be published in 2014 in the month of the 700th anniversary of the Battle of Bannockburn.
Alongside writing novels, Robyn has collaborated on a WWII screenplay. Her novels have been published in 22 countries in 19 languages and together have sold almost 2 million copies.
In Lions of the Grail I found myself transported to a time and place I am not too familiar with, the history of Northern Ireland and the invasion of it by The Bruce Brothers. It seems that most everyone in that region wanted to rule Ireland except maybe the Irish who were too busy clan fighting to resist the English under King John or the upstart Scottish King Robert the Bruce. It is in this chaotic period that we meet our protagonist Syr Richard Savage, formerly of Ulster but who joined The Knights Templar as a personal quest to find meaning in life. Unfortunately for Savage, the Templars are declared heretics and are condemned by The Pope so after being betrayed by a former Templar now turned Knight Hospitaller, he has been incarcerated for 5 years awaiting his fate. Fortunately for Savage, King John(the son of Longshanks) has a pressing need for a former Ulsterman to spy out what is happening in Ireland regarding the Scots and the rumors of invasion.
The author has given us a tale with an intriguing cast of characters from the effeminate King John, the duplicitous Templar turned Hospitaller, The Bruce brothers Robert and Edward, a host of Scots, Irish, and Norman descendants, loyal mercenaries and witchcraft accused mother and daughter. The story runs the gamut of human emotions, love, hatred, loyalty, loss and redemption, to name a few. It also has The Grail and how it came to be in possession of Robert the Bruce and how he uses it to gain allies. Given the many Grail stories and tales that are out there I found that the author gives a credible rendition though perhaps not as good a one as in the Monty Python movie. 🙂
All in all, Lions of the Grail is a fast paced, intriguing story full of twists and turns, full of villainous treachery, full of valor and courage. A thoroughly enjoyable story. I rate it at 4.5 stars.