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3.0 out of 5 starsNot Especially Heroic
Reviewed in the United States on February 22, 2019
I realize the Crusades were a messy time. The effects of Muslims and Christians battling over the validity of their respective belief systems have been going on since the 1100s. The main character here, Will Campbell, is a believable and appealing young man with appropriately teenage ideals and flaws. Young did a good job developing his character. His largely absent father, James, contributes to the plot in a distant way, and other Templar characters help spin the yarn of mystery and castle intrigue. A budding romance is a nice touch as well. That said, there was a great deal of gore in the book and I am just not a fan. I sped-read through most of the battle scenes because of the angst of betrayal and barbarism. I did, however, appreciate Young's ability to render the Muslims as subject to many of the same human weaknesses as the often-idealized Christians.
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.
I'd actually rate this at 3.5 stars, but that wasn't an option. This was Robyn Young's first novel, and though I generally shy away from reading books written by women (I know, I know - MCP!), the subject of the story is a fascinating one for me. It concerns the Kings Templars and the end of the Western presence in the Near East. As a history buff, I found her research to be first rate. I have read other novels where Baybars, the Mamluk leader of Egypt was the main character and her interpretation of him and his motives was just as believable. I'd read the novel just for the historical insights and flavor. I did think the plot took too long to develop and some aspects of it may have stretched probability. On the other hand, her characters were well developed and internally consistent. I will probably buy the next in the series since I've put this much time into getting to know the characters and invested still more time understanding the plot. When she did write the action scenes they were OK, but the story could have used more of them, seeing how violent that era was. Would I buy this book again, knowing then what I know about it? Maybe, depends on what else was out there at the time. I value my time, and am quite willing to stop reading a book that I find I don't like enough. I finished this one, and will probably buy the next one. She has a way to go to become one of my favorite authors.
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on February 23, 2018
Having just finished reading the 3rd and final book in the trilogy I can honestly say it has been a thrilling and incredible journey with Will who is the main character. I’ve never read a book more eagerly, let alone a trilogy! Anyone who’s ever read Pillars of the Earth and World Without End will so enjoy this book. It gives such a fascinating insight into how life was lived in that time, how news was conveyed. The build up to battle scenes are just phenomenal and so vivid and so disturbing, the author superbly paints a picture of the unfolding tension. descriptions of tent colours and horns and drums sounding. I love the way Robyn describes the clothing of the time, the stitching on cloaks and the fabrics. The utter futility of all the bloodshed makes you weep. It is a brilliant way to learn about history - Reading these type of books of course, cause you to lose faith in humanity because peace is so untenable - people placing so much importance on the here and now and in the grand scheme of things all their desires are meaningless. P.s I’m surprised to read so many references of scorching sun and heat in Scotland! Lots of cold weather was mentioned in the Acre section of the trilogy. Is the author sure she didn’t get the countries mixed up!