The Knights Templar and the Mongol Empire have both been popular topics among historical novelists in recent years; this novel has them both and much more.
The story follows a journey along the Silk Road from the Holy Land to Cathay in the year 1260. The Mongol conquests have briefly brought the route under a single authority, and a mismatched pair of ambassadors is sent from Christendom to make contact with the Great Khan. One is a Knight Templar with a guilty past and the other is a Dominican monk hungry for martyrdom. They face the usual perils – snowy mountains, burning deserts and hostile nomads – but their biggest problem is that both have taken vows of chastity and are constantly beset by nubile females. Both eventually succumb, each to a princess, one to a fiery Tartar and the other to a gentle Chinese.
This is a tale of unfulfilled sexual tension ending in dramatic and tragic release. I found it rather too lurid for my taste, but the reader certainly gets the ‘blazing adventure, passionate romance and exotic big canvas story’ promised on the cover.