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Brethren: An Epic Adventure of the Knights Templar    by Robyn Young order for
by Robyn Young
Order:  USA  Can
Plume, 2007 (2006)
Hardcover, Paperback, Audio

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* *   Reviewed by Ricki Marking-Camuto

Robyn Young's Brethren is the first book of a trilogy which takes place during the last Crusade. An intricate tale of the Knights Templar, theft, scandal, and politics, Brethren is sure to enthrall fans of historical fiction about the Crusades just don't expect a fast read, as Young fills the pages with heavy plot and historical facts.

Will Campbell is a young sergeant training to become a Knight. Many of the boys are there to serve God or to fight in the Crusades; Will is there to prove his worth to his father, a Knight currently on Crusade. Even though Will cannot stay out of trouble, he has the other skills required of a great Knight. However, his plans go awry on a trip to Paris when anger causes him to drink the Communion wine and then fall asleep in the sacristy. One of the Templar's noted scribes, Everard, finds him, but instead of kicking him out of the order, he punishes Will and then makes him his aide, as Will is one of the few sergeants who can read and write, skills he learned from his father. Aside from helping translate and copy scrolls and books, Everard has another task for Will: help him recover The Book of the Grail, a stolen manuscript that contains the coded tenets of a secret order, the Anima Templi, a society to which Everard's and Will's father both belong. Aside from this intrigue, the Knights Templar are in a crusade against the Mamluks and their sultan, Baybars, and Will is slowly being swept into it.

Young does a fine job of capturing the feel of medieval England, Paris, and the Holy Land. She also has created richly-defined characters, even if she sometimes gets into the heads of too many at once. Will is a hero for whom everyone will root, flaws and all. The one character, though, that does not seem as well-formed is Baybars. Young wished to depict both sides of the Crusades, but whenever she followed Baybars' story, I never got a true picture of him as there was never a time when I understood his motives or felt anything for or against him. I personally think the Mamluk scenes could be done without as we always saw the results of them in the Knights' passages, and at many points, all they did was slow the story down.

While Brethren is the first in a trilogy, it ends solidly enough that it can stand on its own. It is almost as if Robyn Young wrote this book and then decided to make a trilogy about the Crusades, which might have been the case. Either way, Brethren is a good read if your interests lie in this era and in the Knights Templar.

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