The Youngest Templar: Keeper of the Grail by Michael P. Spradlin
|The Youngest Templar: Keeper of the Grail by Michael P. Spradlin|
|Category: Confident Readers|
|Reviewer: Elaine Dingsdale|
|Summary: The first in a planned series on the life of young squire Tristan. A wonderful and original working of the history of Knights Templar, seen through the eyes of a young boy.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 272||Date: September 2008|
|Publisher: Putnam Publishing Group|
This is a an exciting and beautifully crafted novel, which should appeal to a wide readership-male/female, child/adult. Several genres intermingle and overlap, giving the reader a taste not just historically of the Crusades, but of the adventure and excitement of life for a young lad about to find his way in the world, stepping out from the monastery environment in which the had spent his formative years, having been left there as a foundling. Mystery surrounds Tristan's parentage, and I hope and suspect that this angle will be expanded in subsequent novels in the series.
There is huge empathy for Tristan in his loved but spartan life in the monastery, longing to know his heritage, but having nothing more than the blanket in which he was abandoned to call his own. The hints are there that he will discover important facts about who his parents are, and by introducing this theme at a very early stage, we are alerted that his adventures will follow not only the Crusades, but will be also on a more personal level - the traditional coming-of-age slant, which will no doubt appeal to the younger readers to which it is aimed (who will see that some things in life never change!); the older reader will also rather enjoy feeling protective towards the young squire.
The historical angle is handled very well. There's a lot of information about how towns/castle/monasteries functioned, but done in an easy going manner so the reader never feels that he's being preached at - authors of adult fiction, take note…
But overall, the novel is very much a tale of adventure and derring-do. Good characters, and bad abound… from the dastardly Sir Hugh through to the delightful Brother Tuck, Tristan's prime carer at the monastery. In between we have a wide range of characters, each presented in shades of grey… even the enemy, the Saladin, are depicted in such a way that they emerge as doing what they perceive to be their duty… as indeed do the Templars.
Introduced too are some real characters, mainly Richard (Lionheart), and some of the best scenes in the book unfurl when Richard and Tristan are centre stage. Tristan's awe initially at being presented to the King, was very believable, and was handled with more than a slight touch of humour. However, the battle scenes which included them both were spellbinding, and I found that I was literally holding my breath in places!
Another aspect of this multi-faceted novel which appealed was the theme of loyalty - whether portrayed as loyalty between master and squire, or between friends, the importance of this theme cannot be under-estimated. Thrown into dangerous and frightening situations, Tristan behaves with a maturity which belies his years, and his further adventures will be a joy to read. Here we have a protagonist with huge scope, and his potential is vast. I'm certainly awaiting the second in the series with eager anticipation.
I have only one criticism -and I'm sure the vast majority of readers won't find this a problem, but for me, it spoiled the novel slightly. The introduction of Robard Hode of Sherwood Forest, as Tristan's companion on the flight to Tyre. Granted he needed to be rescued and therefore a companion was essential, but bringing Robin Hood into the tale, spoiled it slightly for me. But no doubt this will form the essential basis of subsequent books in the series, as we already met John Little in Dover, Brother Tuck in St Albans and Maryam, of the Saladin! A very minor criticism from me, which lead me to mark it down slightly in the rating (but only by half a star!)
Overall, this was a superb book, and I hope that the series will run for a long time to come. It's extremely refreshing to read a novel primarily aimed at children (although I think teens would also enjoy it), which doesn't fall into the Harry Potter/Indiana Jones camp, and I very much hope that this beautiful novel earns the success it richly derives.
I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to The Bookbag.
You can read more book reviews or buy The Youngest Templar: Keeper of the Grail by Michael P. Spradlin at Amazon.co.uk
You can read more book reviews or buy The Youngest Templar: Keeper of the Grail by Michael P. Spradlin at Amazon.com.
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