Knights of the Black and White

I've been fascinated with the Knights Templar and their demise ever since watching a documentary on their order during my early teenage years. There is something about the Knights Templar that really captures one's imagination. As a matter of course, I read Holy Blood, Holy Grail, which then led me to order various related works such as The New Knighthood and The Trial of the Templars. Hence, long before The Da Vinci Code introduced them to mainstream readers, I was already intrigued by the mystery and mysticism shrouding the Order of the Temple. It was thus with great eagerness that I read Jack Whyte's first Templar novel.

Knights of the Black and White recounts the beginnings of the order. It's a tale about those nine penniless men who dug for years into the bowels of the Holy City of Jerusalem, and unearthed a treasure which allowed them to become the most influential force in Christendom for more than two centuries.

I really enjoyed how Whyte sets the stage at the start of the novel. Sir Hugh de Payens, a member of a secret society, learns the grave truth about the Order before being sent to fight in what history will remember as the First Crusade. But he emerges from the harrowing slaughter of Jerusalem as a broken man who has lost faith in his fellow knights.

Knights of the Black and White is an interesting blend of historical data and good storytelling. Anyone who has ever shown any interest in the Knights Templar should be pleased with the tale. Others might not find this book as appealing, however. . .

Whyte's narrative sets the mood, and his prose is evocative in a manner that creates the perfect imagery. There are a few info dumps along the way, most of them a necessary evil in a work such as this. What I found the most distracting was the author's tendency to switch from one POV character to the next in the same sequence, without even a break in the scene to signal a POV change.

The characterization is an aspect that leaves a little to be desired in some instances, and that was disappointing. Some characters are well-done; Hugh de Payens and Hassan the Shi'a come to mind. Yet others are clichéd and two-dimensional, characters such as Princess Alice, Brother Stephen St. Clair, and Bishop Odo.

Still, the storylines weave a satisfying tale, even though this first volume covers only the order's humble beginnings. It will be interesting to see where Jack Whyte takes his story in the sequel, Standard of Honor. Hopefully weak characterization will not put a damper on one's reading experience in the subsequent volumes.

As the opening chapter of a saga chronicling the birth and future destruction of an organization whose secrets echo down the centuries to tantalize us even today, Knights of the Black and White remains an entertaining read.

The final verdict: 7.25/10

For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe

7 commentaires:

Anonymous said...

Glad you liked it Pat! The ending was just great! I actually thought that Alice's character was perfectly nasty! Though if you want a baddie you can sink your teeth into, read Standard Of Honor...which I just finished. Great read, and great middle book, but it leaves me salivating for the 3rd book!

Gabriele C. said...

That one just ended on my Christmas wishlist. Let's hope my brother will get a hint this year. :) Else I'm going to buy it myself in January.

Morgwyn said...

I loved Jack Whyte's Camulod books... and the only thing I find more interesting than the Templars are the Freemasons...

Hey, isn't he Canadian too? How about an interview with him?

Albert said...

Hello Pat,

My publisher told me about your blog and he was referred to it by a Little Brown editor who said it was the best fantasy genre blog. And, we share blogs on the same host: writers-tao.blogspot.com is my blog about wuxia (Chinese style heroic fantasy) and writing. I'd love to have you visit the blog and my website: www.aadalia.com, and take a look at my recently published medieval Chinese historical fantasy novel, Dream of the Dragon Pool - A Daoist Quest, which is set in 8th century China the era of my academic background.

Best Wishes,

Albert

Anonymous said...

probably not the best place to pimp your book Albert.....when you could have just emailed him.

Stuart said...

Pat, is this a mostly historical take, or does it include Da Vinci Code types of extrapolations?

Cheers

Patrick said...

Mostly historical, I'd say.

Though so much of the early history of the Templar is shrouded in mystery that there are a few extrapolations...