In 1235, Brother Petroc is a novice monk in an English cathedral city. Naïve and devout, he stumbles into a trap set by a vicious Knight Templar in the service of the corrupt bishop. Falsely accused of murder and the theft of a precious relic, Petroc flees to his former abbey home on Dartmoor. The old librarian, his mentor and teacher from childhood, sends him to a French sea-captain to join his mysterious crew of traders, smugglers, pirates and relic-hunters. In the course of their voyages a fugitive Byzantine princess is rescued. She and Petroc fall in love.
Pursued by the evil knight, also a bitter enemy of the Frenchman, Petroc’s adventures culminate on a Greek island. The islanders’ precious treasure is the relic of a doubtful saint but of such commercial value that men will lie, steal, blaspheme and murder to acquire it.
This is a picturesque tale of strange lands and dark deeds with Petroc as its appealing if overly self-absorbed hero. His journey from rural innocent to killer and blasphemous thief is carefully detailed and he is often a convincing 13th century creation. The overall tone of the novel is modern, however, and the princess totally so, perhaps to attract female readers but she irritated this one. Some judicious editing would not have come amiss; a lot of space is devoted to getting from places A to B to C. But the action scenes are exciting, the turns of the plot unpredictable and the Knight Templar is a deliciously nasty villain.