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Brethren by Robyn Young

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Village
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Joined: April 2012

Brethren by Robyn Young

Post by Village » Fri April 27th, 2012, 8:42 am

The first in a trilogy following young Templar Knight Will Campbell and Mamluk Sultan Baybars at the tail end of the 13th century and the last embers of the crusades. It begins with the crushing victory for the Mamluks against the Mongols at Ain Jalut and then wends its way via London, Paris, Safed, Acre, Aleppo and Antioch through a decade of conflict.

On the positive side you get a nice feel for how the various factions in the region jostle with one another and how the major events of the time fit together. I think Young's writing is good, a nice balance of description and dialogue and I could easily conjure up a vivid image of Outremer.

On the negative side it is a long book, overly long. The plot rambles and the sub-plot Young invents about a quest for the Book of the Grail takes up a huge amount of time and yet ends in the most empty conclusion imaginable. There is a lot of ink spilt on introspection (with the same ground covered again and again) and very little time given to action. The fall of Antioch gets a chapter. Having waited 500 odd pages for it I felt a little cheated.

I was also not convinced by her characters. The main protagonist is as teary and callow in the end of the book (now a twenty-something year old Knight and veteran of several battles) as he was as a thirteen year old novice. The villains are stock characters, devoid of any depth.

A final quibble would be that the dialogue is a little too 20th century. I know it is unreasonable to expect authentic medieval dialogue but I do prefer when the author gives the characters a voice that does not jar you back to the present.

All that said, I do think Brethren is worth a read. Young has clearly done a huge amount of research and Baybars is a figure who gets undeservedly lost in the shadow of Saladin. This is a book that sets the record strait on who the Templars were as opposed to who Dan Brown and Assassins Creed pretend they were. I would give the book a B rating.

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