The Holy Lance
Publication Date: March 24, 2015
Knox Robinson Publishing
Formats: eBook, Hardcover
Series: The English Templars (Book One)
Genre: Historical Fiction/Middle Ages
This book counts for the following Reading Challenges
MY THOUGHTS ABOUT THIS BOOK
At a time where it has become again blatantly common and glorious to kill in the name of religion, I welcomed the opportunity to revisit the Crusades. With The Holy Lance, the first novel of a series, author Andrew Latham draws a fascinating portrait of the Third Crusade, a month after the capitulation of Acre.
The book in set over a month, July-August 1191. The Crusaders just avoided a terrible defeat at Acre. King Richard of England (famously known as the Lionheart, though never under this surname in the book) has noticed the courage and success of the Templar Brother Fitz Alan. He is the main protagonist of the book, with his friend Arnaldus. Richard and Robert de Sablé, the Master of the Order of the Temple, charge him to go recover a supposed miraculous relic, the Holy Lance with which Christ was pierced on the Cross.
In a country (roughly corresponding to modern Syria) at war between different Saracen (that’s how they used to be called) factions and different Christian groups from Europe, ripe with all kinds of jealousies, this is certainly not an easy task. Before dying, his old confessor actually warns Fitz Alan about the dangers of such a mission. You will have to read the book to see if he accepts and what happens to him.
I would like to highlight the fantastic job the author did to recreate the historical milieu and mentality of the Crusades. If originally, the idea of the Crusades might have been fair and glorious, as we all know it did not take long to turn into disastrous expeditions. Actually, Saint Bernard, who preached the 2nd Crusade, was so shocked to see what happened in reality that he never really recovered from the effect of it. It certainly did not help his already nervous and sick stomach, and he died a few years after the official end of the 2nd Crusade.
I mention Saint Bernard as he is alluded to a few times in the novel. Unfortunately, I am afraid most readers may not understand fully the connection, and this does not seem to be explained in the afterword either: Saint Bernard, full of idealism, had actually been very instrumental in the creation of the Order of the Knights Templars at the beginning of the 12th century, and even wrote them a book (In Praise of the New Knighthood) that complemented the Rule of saint Benedict they were following.
The author captured very well the jealousy, envy, and conflicts between the different civil authorities (King Richard of England and King Philip of France; Conrad of Monterrat, the pretender to the throne of Jerusalem), with their respective vassals; and religious groups: Templars, Hospitallers, Cistercians. And of course religious and men in authorities did not like each other either. With all these groups together often more interested in their own glory than God’s, no wonder it did not turn out too well.
There were also good points on what was going on on the other side, with Saladin an his brother Saphadin especially, and the groups of the Assassins.
The story of the Holy Lance is presented with suspense, which gives a nice extra dimension to the historical novel.
As any worthy book on the Crusades, there is violence, be warned, with awful scenes of carnage and torture.
I like the fact the author used many technical words, but it might have been good to provide readers unfamiliar with the History and language of the time with a glossary.
Having studied that period at length years ago, I have to say it was quite a terrible reminder to suddenly revisit this period again with, in the back of my mind, our contemporary context when we hear so much of violence in the name of religion. The Crusades remain for me a shameful page of history when killing and dying in the name of Christ was also a great honor.
This inner conflict is also a large part of the story, with Fitz Alan struggling all along to become a better Templar. But whatever their motif for killing, killing was still the necessary means to their end.
VERDICT: Presented within a suspense story, this historical novel is an excellent presentation of the milieu and mentality of the spirit of the Crusades.
WHAT IS IT ABOUT
The year is 1191. A daring counterattack against the Saracens’ last-ditch effort to relieve the besieged city of Acre has not only saved the Christian host from a fatal defeat; it has also brought the leader of that counterattack, English Templar Michael Fitz Alan, to the attention of King Richard the Lionheart.
In the days that follow, the king charges Fitz Alan with a life-or-death mission – to recover the Holy Lance, a long-lost religious relic widely believed to be responsible for the near-miraculous success of the First Crusade.
The ensuing quest leads Fitz Alan and a hand-picked band of Templars on a journey deep into enemy territory, where they battle Saracens, Assassins, hostile Christians and even a traitor within their own ranks as they seek to return the Holy Lance to Christian hands and thereby ensure the success of the crusade.
Buy the Book
Knox Robinson author Andrew A. Latham is an award-winning professor of International Relations who regularly teaches courses in medieval political thought, international relations, and war. Trained as a Political Scientist, Latham has spent the last decade-and-a-half researching political violence in the Middle Ages. He has written scholarly articles on medieval war, the crusades, jihad, and the political thought of Saint Augustine and Saint Thomas Aquinas. His most recent book is a work of non-fiction entitled Theorizing Medieval Geopolitics: War and World Order in the Age of the Crusades.
Latham was born in England, raised in Canada and currently lives in the United States. He graduated from York University in Toronto with a BA (Honours) in Political Science, later earned an MA from Queen’s University in Kingston and, later yet, a PhD from his alma mater, York.
Latham is a member of the Historical Novel Society, the Historical Writers’ Association and De Re Militari: The Society For Medieval Military History.
Since 1997 Latham has been a member of the Political Science Department at Macalester College in Saint Paul, Minnesota, where he where he lives with his wife Wendy, daughter Bernadette and son Michael.
The Holy Lance Blog Tour Schedule
Monday, May 4
Guest Post & Giveaway at Let Them Read Books
Thursday, May 7
Guest Post & Giveaway at Teddy Rose Book Reviews Plus More
Friday, May 8
Guest Post at The Writing Desk
Sunday, May 10
Review at With Her Nose Stuck in a Book
Tuesday, May 12
Spotlight at Just One More Chapter
Thursday, May 14
Guest Post at Book Lovers Paradise
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