"Brethren: An Epic Adventure of the Knights Templar"
(Reviewed by Eleanor Bukowsky AUG 26, 2006)
“Perceval’s search is his search for salvation. The Grail, the object of his quest, isn’t something that can be held in the hand. It cannot be bought or sold and it will not be found by looking, but only by opening the heart to its essence. That is where it exists. In the vessel of the heart.”
Robyn Young’s epic novel of the Knights Templar, Brethren, is the first book in a proposed trilogy. This story spans the years between 1260 and 1272 AD. The settings include London, Paris, and various locales throughout the Middle East. Young utilizes an old-fashioned storytelling style, with an omniscient narrator providing much of the background information. The central figure is Will Campbell, an apprentice in the Knights Templar, an order that was formed in the twelfth century after the First Crusade. According to Young’s notes, the knights “followed both a religious rule and a strict military code.” Although their initial mission was to protect Christians visiting the Holy Land, the Knights Templar evolved into “one of the wealthiest and most powerful organizations of their day,” wielding great political, economic and religious influence.
Will is a troubled young man who has had a serious rift with his father, James. Will’s father leaves abruptly to wage war against Baybars Bundukdari, the Muslim leader of the Mamluk Empire. Baybars is a fierce, brilliant, and uncompromising warrior, a man who wishes to rid the Middle East of all Christians. Will longs to become a knight and fight side-by-side with his father, but his desires are thwarted time and again. He falls in love with a beautiful and courageous young woman named Elwen, but they have many obstacles to overcome before they can be together.
Brethren is a thoroughly researched and sweeping tale that describes a century that eerily resembles ours. Islamic fundamentalists declare Jihad against their Western enemies. Clashing armies cruelly cut one another’s soldier’s down in bloody battles. Powerful men engage in conspiracies, betray one another, and resort to murder to achieve their aims. Not much has changed since the thirteenth century, it seems. For fans of historical fiction, Brethren is a primer about knighthood, royalty and Christianity in the years before the Last Crusade.
However, does Young succeed as a writer of compelling fiction? Although she has the history part down pat, Young is less skilled in creating three-dimensional and believable characters. Her villains are dastardly and her young heroes are callow and long-suffering. A whole spectrum of human emotions is on display, including selfishness, venality, ambition, altruism, and fanaticism, but the members of this novel’s large cast are mostly “types” rather than realistic individuals.
Young’s central theme is as relevant today as it was back then: too many violent acts are carried out in the name of religious and nationalistic causes. The battle scenes are spectacularly exciting and gory. Young certainly knows her weaponry and it is horrifying to read about the cruelty with which Baybars and his men dispatch their enemies. At almost five hundred pages, the book meanders a bit and the finale takes a long time to play out. Nevertheless, the author has more to tell and Will and his fellow knights will be back again in Crusade, which is scheduled for publication in 2007.
- Amazon readers rating: from 16 reviews
Read a chapter excerpt from Brethren at author's website
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Bibliography: (with links to Amazon.com)
- Brethen: An Epic Adventure of the Knights Templar (2006)
- Crusade (2007)
- The Fall of the Templars (January 2009)
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- Official Website for Robyn Young
- BookReporter.com review of Brethren
- Curled Up review of Fall of the Templars
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About the Author:
Robyn Young was born in Oxford in 1975. She grew up as an only child of a civil engineer father and an artist and folk singer mother. She has been writing since she was a child and entertain the idea of being a journalist for awhile but dropped that idea when someone said she was too nice, and knew they were right. At twenty-two, after various jobs in the entertainment business, she worked in a bank. While there she wrote her first book in six months (not published).
She finally enrolled in a foundation course in creative writing at Sussex University and began writing Brethren. She then went on to earn a Masters Degree in Creative Writing (with distinction) from the University of Sussex. While there she continued to write Brethren and sold it just as she was graduating. From start to finish, the Brethren triology took seven years to write.
She now lives in Brighton and writes full time.