The Last Crusade (The Knights Templar Book 6)

Written by S.J.A. Turney
Review by Helen Johnson

Northern Spain, 1212. Following victory at the Battle of Navas, three Templar Knights return to their home preceptory of Rourell. But all is not well. Arnau and his friends discover a devious plot to discredit their beloved Preceptrix and deprive Rourell of vital land endowments. The three friends determine to right this wrong. There ensues a chase across the Catalan landscape, interspersing rustling incriminating documents from hilltop fortresses with bloody bandit attacks. As the friends reach each monastery, castle, or cathedral, new layers of conspiracy call their religious vows into question, and when a crusade against Cathar heretics is called, Arnau and his friends must make their own decisions. Turney vividly recreates the medieval world, in which documents are as powerful as swords, and God is always watching. As evil is exposed, Arnau is forced to reconsider his religion, his secular loyalties, and his allegiances.

The book is the sixth in a series, with tantalising memories of Arnau’s previous adventures. The legal conspiracy to destroy Arnau’s beloved Preceptrix is complex – so complex, I thought, this is like real life. And, in an end note, Turney reveals that most of his characters appear in the historical record. Turney writes competently, making a raid on a library as tense as a raid on an enemy encampment. It’s not a book for the squeamish. In these wars of religion, terrible atrocities are committed by both sides, and Turney describes them unflinchingly. The battle scenes are well written, detailed, and compelling. The few female characters are not deeply written, but this is a book about Templar Knights, men sworn to religion, and Arnau’s inner life is with God, not women. Recommended for readers who want to try to understand what it meant to be a Knight of God.