City of God (Knights Templar #3) by S.J.A. Turney

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BLURB

Journey to the heart of an empire: a jaw-dropping historical adventure from master storyteller S.J.A. Turney

Arnau de Vallbona and his fellow Templar Brother Ramon are bound for the Holy Land to take part in the great Crusade when fate intervenes.

Delayed in Cyprus, they learn of a growing rift in Christendom: the crusading army has diverted from its course and threatens Rome’s allies in the Byzantine Empire. Arnau and Ramon, alongside the irascible Preceptor Bochard, race to Constantinople, encountering a grand and crumbling world of alliances and betrayals, emperors and armies.

The fate of the world is at stake. As Christian forces inexorably collide, Arnau is caught in the middle of an epic siege of the greatest city in the world. He will be tested to his limits: follow his vows… or do what’s right?

A novel of awe inspiring scale, battle and story, this is a masterly telling of one of history’s great turning points from S.J.A. Turney, perfect for fans of Bernard Cornwell, Michael Jecks and K. M. Ashman

Praise for SJA Turney

‘Turney masters politics, pace and pursuit in this death-defying twelfth-century story … stunning story-telling’ Prue Batten, author of The Triptych Chronicle Trilogy

REVIEW

When I grow up I want to be able to write historical fiction tales like Mr. Turney. City of God is another example of the author’s prowess at putting words on a page; words that compels the reader, exhorts the reader, to keep turning those pages. In this tale we are taken to the historic fall of Constantinople, where Arnau is caught not only in the Frank/Venetian siege of the city, but also in the horns of a dilemma – the battle of an unwavering obedience to a rigid code versus the moral obligations inherent in the realities of the situation. Richly detailed, thoroughly researched, dramatic action, a plot dripping with irony and surprises, and characters who stand out from the page, City of God has it all.

5 ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

The Holy Lance by Andrew Latham

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When going through my “to be read” list of books to choose which one to read next, I often allow myself to be swayed by the chatter on various social media outlets.  The Holy Lance was one of those where the chatter almost compelled me to read it.  One of the things that drew me in was the fact that the author is an acclaimed historian; something that I have found to enhance any historical-fiction they write.  Besides, I like to support those who have taken up the profession of Historian as I am a self acclaimed amateur one (was my major in college back in the early 70’s).  Now, when you couple all of that with the history of the region and the current climate of terror and hatred, it became a no brainer to read a book about the Crusade under Richard the Lionheart.

Rumor has it that the spear that pierced the side of Jesus was hidden away in a remote Lazar House deep in Saracen held territory.  Richard wants it; his rivals want to keep it from him; Saladin wants to keep it from any Crusader.  This sets up a remarkable tale of a troop of Templars led by Michael Fitz Alan who infiltrate Saracen territory in order to claim the relic for Richard.  The main protagonist, Fitz Alan, is a mighty warrior of Christ, fearless in his pursuit of and in the killing of the unbelievers.  He is also possessed of a troubled mind and soul who struggles each day with his past.  This is one of the strong points in the book, the author’s portrayal of these Templar Knights as men who hold firmly to the belief that their very souls depend on strict adherence to their Rule.  The story is replete with exciting action, dramatic turns of events and in my opinion gives a brief on why we continue to war in that area of the world to this day.  A 5 star effort for this, the first book in the series.  Hooverbookreviews says, ‘get ready to read, you may learn something.’  🙂

About the author:

Knox Robinson author Andrew A. Latham is an award-winning professor of International Relations who regularly teaches courses in medieval political thought, international relations, and war.  Trained as a Political Scientist, Latham has spent the last decade-and-a-half researching political violence in the Middle Ages.  He has written scholarly articles on medieval war, the crusades, jihad, and the political thought of Saint Augustine and Saint Thomas Aquinas.  His most recent book is a work of non-fiction entitled Theorizing Medieval Geopolitics: War and World Order in the Age of the Crusades.
Latham was born in England, raised in Canada and currently lives in the United States.  He graduated from York University in Toronto with a BA (Honours) in Political Science; later he earned an MA from Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario; and later yet, he earned a PhD from his alma mater, York.
Latham is a member of the Historical Novel Society, the Historical Writers’ Association and De Re Militari: The Society For Medieval Military History.
Since 1997 Latham has been a member of the Political Science Department at Macalester College in Saint Paul, Minnesota, where he where he lives with his wife Wendy, daughter Bernadette and son Michael.

Brethren by Robyn Young

 

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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.

Lions of the Grail by Tim Hodkinson

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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.