The Templar Knight
The story begins in 1177. Exiled to the Holy Land ten years earlier, Arn Magnusson is now serving as Master of the Knights Templar’s Gaza fortress. His betrothed, Cecilia, has been placed into a cloister in western Gotaland (in Scandinavia). Both were forced to perform twenty years’ penance by the Church for conceiving a child out of wedlock. Arn, known by the Saracens as Al-Ghouti, is feared for his strength, cunning and compassion. After rescuing a man he believes to be a wealthy Arab merchant, the two become friends and learn to respect one another – especially after Arn learns that the merchant is really Saladin, the most feared of all the Saracen warlords. Meanwhile Cecilia, because of her family clan, is forced into life-threatening situations by Abbess Rikissa, the head of the convent, who belongs to a different clan that presently rules the country.
The Templar Knight is second in the Crusades Trilogy. This novel and its predecessor are fascinating accounts of events leading up to the Third Crusade. Guillou handles the tales of both Arn and Cecilia masterfully by ending each chapter with a cliffhanger and alternating between the protagonists. All of the people, including minor characters and real-life individuals such as Saladin and King Baldwin IV, are memorable and realistic as they move the plot along. The novel becomes a real page-turner when the author places his major characters in difficult situations. I highly recommend this series, which has been critically acclaimed internationally and has finally become available to the English-speaking public.