I have a fascination with the Knights Templar, the fighting monks of Christianity, so when I spotted this book by Jack Whyte, I knew I had to read it. It was better than I had hoped it would be, and at 750 pages there is a lot to read.
This story begins a decade before the start of the first crusade. It’s told from the viewpoint of the young knight Hugh de Payens, who grows up as the book progresses. Young Hugh is introduced to an ancient secret society by his father and grandfather, and is initiated into the Order of the Rebirth of Sion. He then spends the next few years learning as much of the lore of his order as he can.
When Pope Urban calls for the formation of a crusade to free the Holy Land, Hugh finds himself on a journey that will change his life forever, as he witnesses the siege at Antioch, and takes a crucial part in the storming of Jerusalem. After the city falls, Hugh is recalled to France by the Order of Rebirth and given the task of seeking out others of thier Order and uniteing them there in Outremer to pursue the ancient goal of thier Order, finding the treasure hidden beneath the Temple Mount. At first the task seems impossible to carry out, secrecy from the church and the newly formed Kingdom of Jerusalem are essential. It is only after Hugh and some fellow knights face of with a band of brigands outside the city, that Hugh figures out how to pull it off. And so the Temple Knights are born, with a mission to keep the roads around Jerusalem free of bandits and protection of the pilgrams travelling there, all the while in secret they are digging beneath the stables of the old temple.
Jack Whyte expertly sets the mood of the era with this masterpiece of historical fiction. I will definately be reading the sequel Standard of Honor.