Order in Chaos
Early on the morning of Friday the thirteenth of October, 1307, King Philip le Bel of France descended upon every Templar house in his realm, arresting every knight. Within days, torture had wrung the confession of horrible crimes from the captive men, and within years, the last Grand Master would die at the stake in Paris. This was the effective end of the order, save for mystical rumors.
In Jack Whyte’s retelling, Scottish knight Sir William St. Clair manages to save the Templar treasure and a few boatfuls of knights from their fortress at La Rochelle and bring them to safety on the Arran Islands, eventually to his family’s ancestral home at Roslin. How some few Templars lived in those dark days when every hand in Christendom was after their proud insignia is interesting to contemplate, evolving, I don’t doubt, into Scottish rite freemasonry. I was frustrated, however, by the dearth of battle scenes, for which Whyte is famous. Of course, when you’re lying low, galloping onto the field under your black-and-white banner should be avoided. Getting us up to speed on Scottish politics involves pages and pages of dull dialogue, which in the end proved unnecessary, and the sudden miraculous appearance of the defeated order on the Scottish side at Bannockburn receives but a similar cursory account. A nod to romance, possible now as monkish vows of celibacy are wiped out, is just that, an awkward nod, although it improves a little toward the end.
All in all, however, the book is worth the read to discover how those North American plants got on the walls of Roslin chapel years before Columbus.