Another Templar novel? This one confines itself solely to the historical period from 1260 to 1272, when the Mamluk warrior Baybars terrorized Outremer and wrenched control of much of the Holy Land back from the Franks. He succeeded despite the efforts of the Templars and Hospitallers. In addition to Baybars’s tale, the storyline follows the turbulent careers of two young men, William Campbell and Garin de Lyons, who have joined the Templars for all the wrong reasons. The reasons are understandably human, but none too inspiring. They pursue their separate goals (personal redemption, finding a secret lost book, regaining family honor) with fierce determination, destroying their friendship, sacrificing even their duty to the Temple, until their paths meet again in Outremer. There, they must face Baybars, and in so doing, they discover what is really important.
Religion plays a surprisingly small role in the lives of these Templar knights, though it is seemingly important to Baybars. This book is truly an epic adventure as billed. The history is fascinating. The characters are well-developed. The plot is exciting. However, I found it relentlessly downbeat. Rather than being a “page-turner,” I could only read it in small doses. It’s not that I need unrealistic cheeriness, but I do like to believe there is some good in the world. This book is the first of a trilogy, and I will likely read the next. The main protagonist has matured by the end, and I have hopes for his character.