The Barnes & Noble Review
Continuing the monastic adventures of 1995's Tales of the Knights Templar and 2002's Crusade of Fire: Mystical Tales of the Knights Templar, editor Katherine Kurtz presents 11 more original stories that further explore the myths and legends of the noble order of the white-mantled knights whose mission it was to protect pilgrim routes to the Holy Land during the Crusades.
Included in the collection are stories by Diane Duane, Andre Norton, David and Alexandra Elizabeth Honigsberg, and Kurtz herself. In Duane's "Blank Check," a knight working as the head of a chapter treasury in Tripoli has his faith tested when a mysterious woman demands the unthinkable. Deborah Turner and Robert Harris's "The Company of Three" chronicles the last moments before the fall of a besieged city, when two devoted knights try to steal a terrifyingly powerful religious relic away from Islamic invaders. Norton's "Stonish Men" tells the story of the very last of the Knights Templar. Desperately fleeing for their lives on the high seas, a small group of knights reach the New World.
Also notable in this collection are the highly informative interludes after each story in which Kurtz briefly discusses the historically relevant aspects of the narrative. In the nearly 200 years of their existence and in the centuries that have elapsed since then, there has been much speculation as to the real purpose of the Knights Templar. Fans of historical fiction with strong religious themes -- like Stephen R. Lawhead's Celtic Crusades saga -- will surely enjoy this collection of absorbing short stories about the enigmatic warrior-monks. Paul Goat Allen
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
The Order of the Knights Templar is best known for its members' zealous deeds in the Holy Land, but the organization was also a formidable financial institutionwealthy enough to earn the enmity of the Catholic church and King Philip IV of France, who, in 1307, ordered the Templars hunted down. This dark period provides the backdrop for Kurtz's second Knights Templar anthology (after the mass market Tales of the Knights Templar, 1995), a hit-or-miss collection despite appearances by some popular fantasy authors as well as by the head of John the Baptist, the Shroud of Turin and the Holy Grail. A Templar official pays off a draft authorizing payment of "an amount without limit" to protect a holy artifact in Diane Duane's slight "Blank Check." Andre Norton's surprising "Stonish Men," with its New England colonials speaking like characters in a B-grade western, does little with the intriguing idea that Templars might have fled to America. Kurtz's own "Restitution" merely allows modern-day reincarnated Templar Sir Adam Sinclair (from her popular Adept series) to tie up a loose end from another story. Robert Reginald's "Occam's Razor," however, is a lively tale, with William of Occam called in by the pope to investigate some suspicious deaths. Also noteworthy is the dry, neo-noir "Selling the Devil" by Debra Doyle and James D. Macdonald. Educational interludes by Kurtz knit the collection together and fill in the context that too many of the stories leave out. (May)
VOYA - Marlyn Roberts
Unfortunately, this collection of short stories will probably have limited appeal for the young adult age group. The introduction, the stories, and the factual "interludes" between the stories contain a lot of very interesting historical information. For example, in the introduction, readers learn the reason for the superstition about Friday the 13th: Friday, October 13, 1307, was the date that King Philip IV of France sent his officers to arrest all members of the Templars they could find. The first story, Diane Duane's Blank Check, is more like a dry history lesson disguised as a short story and this may keep readers from the remaining nine stories that are thrilling, mysterious, romantic, and gripping. Fantasy masters like Andre Norton, Alexandra and David Honigsberg, and Kurtz herself have contributed stories about the Order. Probably the best of the lot is Selling the Devil by Debra Doyle and James D. Macdonald, in which a Sam Spade-like modern-day Templar secret agent's latest assignment is to investigate a group attempting to conjure Satan. Kurtz's Restitution, about Adam Sinclair, the protagonist of her Adept series, and David and Julie Spangler's Keepers are wonderful, too. For readers who do develop an interest in the subject, there is a comprehensive bibliography that includes Tales of the Knights Templar (Warner, 1995), Kurtz's earlier collection of stories on the same subject. VOYA Codes: 4Q 3P S (Better than most, marred only by occasional lapses, Will appeal with pushing, Senior High-defined as grades 10 to 12).
A second volume of historical fantasy stories about the Knights Templar (after Tales of the Knights Templar, not seen), edited by respected fantasist Kurtz (the Deryni series, etc.). Following the First Crusade, the warrior-monk Knights Templar were commissioned in 1118 as a sort of 12th-century Highway Patrol; they rapidly developed into an impressive fighting force and soon diversified into shipping, banking, and other businesses until they were destroyed in 1307 by Philip IV of France. The Templars' reputation for matters mystical and romantic probably derives from their association with the Holy Grailindeed, they spent the first decade of their existence excavating beneath King Solomon's Temple in Jerusalem, and who knows what they found? The galley at hand offers 10 new speculations (the publishers, however, count 11) from Diane Duane, Deborah Turner Harris and Robert J. Harris, David M. Honigsberg and Alexandra Elizabeth Honigsberg, Richard Woods, Robert Reginald, Andre Norton, Bradley Sinor, Debra Doyle and James D. MacDonald, David Spengler and Julie Spengler, and editor Kurtz herself, who also supplies links between the stories. Of greatest probable interest to Templar fans and eclectic fantasists.
Read an Excerpt
By Katherine Kurtz
Warner Aspect Copyright © 1998 Katherine Kurtz
All right reserved.
Introduction Nine centuries ago, in the aftermath of the First Crusade (1095-9), a French knight called Hugues de Payens and eight of his countrymen journeyed to Jerusalem to form a community of warrior-monks who came to be known as the Order of Poor Fellow-Soldiers of Christ and the Temple of Solomon, or, later, the Order of the Temple of Jerusalem: the Knights Templar. Making monastic vows of obedience, chastity, and poverty to the Patriarch I of Jerusalem, and granted leave by the newly crowned King Baldwin II of Jerusalem to establish their headquarters near the site of King Solomon's Temple, they were charged with the duty to "maintain, as far as they could, the roads and highways against the ambushes of thieves and attackers, especially in regard to the safety of pilgrims."
From this apparently humble beginning, the Order of the Temple grew to be the single most powerful military presence in the Holy Land-an incomparable fighting machine whose warriors neither asked nor gave quarter, whose rule did not allow them to be ransomed if captured or to retreat from battle unless the numbers of the enemy were at least three, times greater than their own-and-even then, if ordered by their commander to stand and die, they must do so. Bearded and white-clad, bearing the red cross of martyrdom upon shoulder and breast, and fighting under the distinctive black and white battle standard, Beauceant, their very presence on the field was, enough to inspire dread among their adversaries. Their motto proclaimed their devotion to their holy cause: Non nobis, Domine, non nobis sed nomini tuo da gloriam-"Not to us, Lord, not to us but to Thy Name give the glory."
Their zeal and single-minded focus on recovering Christianity's sacred places in the Holy Land inspired generous donations of lands and revenues by wealthy patrons eager to support their work and gain favor in the life to come. To manage the assets thus generated, and to facilitate transport of men and materiel for the military operation in the East, they developed a wide range of skills in what, today, we would call "diversified financial services": providing safe deposit facilities, transporting specie and credit for same, acting as agents for collection, administering trust, arranging finance, holding mortgages, managing properties. The Order flourished for nearly two hundred years, answerable only to the pope, accruing a legacy of legend to augment their worldly success. Such success was bound to generate resentment and envy.
Their world came crashing to a halt on October 13, 1307-a day so infamous that, to this day, Friday the thirteenth conjures a frisson of superstitious dread in the minds of many. In a well-orchestrated operation nearly a year in the planning, officers of King Philip IV of France acted on sealed orders opened simultaneously at dawn and swooped in to arrest every Templar knight, sergeant, and chaplain they could find. By the end of the day, several thousand men lay in chains, on charges that included heresy, blasphemy, various obscenities, and homosexual practices. (For a more detailed account of the charges and subsequent trials, see Tales of the Knights Templar, 1995.)
No shred of evidence was ever produced to prove any of the accusations, though torture and the threat of torture at the hands of the Holy Office of the Inquisition did elicit "confessions", from some of the men. Scores died under torture, a few took their own lives to escape further torture, and more than a hundred knights later recanted their confessions and paid the ultimate price-for relapsed heretics were condemned to bum at the stake. In May of 13 10, just outside Paris, fifty-four Templars perished in one day, protesting their innocence to the last; in total, at least one hundred twenty were burned. The last Templars to suffer this fate-and the most famous-were Jacques de Molay, the last Grand Master, and his Preceptor for Normandy, Geoffroi de Churney. The curse pronounced by de Molay would claim the lives of both king and pope within the year.
But in 1118, a glorious future still lay ahead of the fledgling Order-and perhaps a hidden agenda. Though given the charge to protect the pilgrim routes, the founding nine seem to have exerted little military presence during their first decade in Jerusalem. Indeed, these proto-Templars rarely ventured forth from their base camp amid the foundations of King Solomon's Temple (whence they took their Templar name), clothing themselves in cast-off garments, subsisting on the charity of their patrons, keeping to themselves-and engaged in extensive excavations beneath the Temple Mount that have all the earmarks of a highly focused archaeological dig. Nor do they seem to have added to their numbers during this time.
Yet, by the time of the Council of Troyes in 1128-9, the Order burst into prominence with sudden wealth, papal patronage such that they answered only to the pontiff, a rule given them by the future St. Bernard of Clairvaux, and an influx of new recruit whose numbers rapidly multiplied by scores, then hundreds and even thousands. Speculation in recent years suggests that, since they conducted little or no military activity during those first ten years (and, in fact, seemed largely occupied with their excavations beneath the Temple foundations), perhaps their initial purpose in the Holy Land was not the protection of the pilgrim routes at all, but to search for some treasure buried there-and that they found it.
Certain it is that the Order grew rapidly in size, wealth, and influence, and their prowess in battle wind the forces of Islam soon assumed the weight of legend. At the same time, they were building one of the finest fleets in the known world and breaking new ground in the field of financial services-and perhaps already well involved, at least at some level, in secret operations of a more mystical nature.
Excerpted from On Crusade by Katherine Kurtz Copyright © 1998 by Katherine Kurtz. Excerpted by permission.
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