Sunday, September 05, 2010

Templar Trilogy - Order in Chaos Review

With the release of Order in Chaos, Jack Whyte's Templar Trilogy is finally brought to a close. Never one to buy hardcover novels (they tend not to fit in my satchel bag), I finally had the pleasure of reading his latest masterpiece last month, having had to wait anxiously this past year to get my hands on a paperback edition.

Set about 115 years after Standard of Honour, the Templars are a well established order recognized throughout all of Christendom (Europe). Not only are they warrior monks of renown, they also hold great amounts of real estate, have established one of the world's first modern banking systems, and still hold no allegiance to any temporal monarch. On Oct. 13th, 1307, all of this changed as the greedy King Philip of France, with the blessings of Pope Clement, arrested every Templar in France in an effort to seize their wealth.

Having had advance warning of this coup, Grand Master Jacques de Molay dispatches Sir William St. Clair to La Rochelle and the Temple Commandery there with instructions to prepare for the worst, and more importantly, to safeguard the treasure of the Temple. For St. Clair, this did not just mean the Temple's wealth, but also the Temple's true treasure long held secret to but a few: the scrolls recovered by the original Temple Knights; proof of all the secret Order of Scion believes and the falsehood of Christianity and the church itself.

As that fateful morning arrives, St. Clair and the Templars of La Rochelle sail away to safety and after a few stops, arrive in Scotland seeking refuge where they eventually become embroiled in the affairs of non-other than Robert the Bruce himself.

Jack Whyte himself never fails to both educate as well as entertain with his historical fiction. I certainly did not expect a tale of the Templars to end up in Scotland, and it provided a wonderful backdrop for Whyte to tell me about the Scotish Wars for Independence, and the struggles those people were truly facing against their English oppressors. What a troubled and desperate time that country faced, truly fascinating, and highlighted by Whyte's dramatic and colourful characters.

Like all his novels, Whyte excels at depth of character, keeping his heroes human. Whether it's St. Clair himself coming to grips with the loss of all that he knew, the fiery Jessie Randolph challenging his principles at every turn, or the practical and loyal Sergeant Tam St. Clair providing support and sound reason, Whyte's characters are fallible, passionate, and identifiable. The wonderful backdrop and setting may provide the fantasy, but it's his characters that provide the wonder and keep the reader turning page after page after page.

And after you finish turning the last page, the tale is over and the Templars pass in to legend and glory. For nearly 200 years, the Order stood strong and in the breath of a day, it was all undone by politics and lust for power. A fascinating story, and one that Whyte has explored with great detail throughout his trilogy, from one generation to the next until only a handful of Templars remained. I applaud Whyte once again, and thank him for writing such a thorough epic, one that both entertains and enlightens.

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