The Crescent and the Cross (Knights Templar)
The 5th in Simon Turney’s Knights Templar series, this book deals with the start of the campaign to win Iberia back from the Moors. The Caliph is leading a huge, smoothly-oiled war machine; the Christians are splintered, each minor King, and the leaders of the three great Templar houses, vying for supremacy. On one side of the mountain chain, the Caliph is massing his armies for conquest. On the other, the Christians, expecting just another Crusade, are about to walk into the jaws of a trap… Against this background, the Templar knight Arnau and his impetuous, untested squire are sent on an almost suicidal journey far behind enemy lines to rescue a captured Brother – who turns out to be a fanatical convert to the Islam of the Almohads. They must not only break the “brainwashing” that has been forced on him, but race back through territory which has soldiers pouring into it to warn the Christian leaders of the forces awaiting them.
Turney is known for his brutal, realistic battle scenes, and this first, hugely important blow in the reconquest of Spain is no exception. We see both the tactical manoeuvres unfold, then we are in the guts of the battle with Arnau; then he supports King Sancho of Navarre in a brilliant surprise move. On the way, he earns the hatred of a Frankish knight, who might just feature in the next thrilling tale. For me, a key part of my enjoyment of a good historical novel is the Author’s Note. Turney walks us through the facts and fiction in a way that is just as readable as the story itself. Assuming you can cope with a fair amount of blood – thoroughly recommended!