In 2006, I discovered Jack Whyte’s multi-volume series on King Arthur entitled The Camulod Chronicles. Arthurian legends are one of my favorite topics to read. The series combined some of the myths as well as some factual information. I really enjoyed reading those books. The combination of truth and fiction is another attention-getting device to which I am addicted.
Recently, my local public library drew my attention to Mr. Whyte’s second series dealing with the meteoric rise and dramatic fall of the Poor Knights of Christ of the Temple of Solomon also known as the Knights Templar. I do not remember when I became a fan of this historic and controversial group, but it was 50 or more years ago. Along the way I have read many books, fiction and nonfiction, about the Templars. I was never one of those people who believed that they were evil-doers, devil worshipers, sacrilegious or worse.
Knights of the Black and White is the first of Mr. Whyte’s Templar series. The story opens late in the 11th Century. The Normans had been in control of England for less than 40 years. France was divided into Duchies and Counties with a King at the top of the pecking order. Some of the oldest and most powerful French families were members of a secret society that traced its history to the time of Jesus Christ and earlier. Huges de Payen was one of those knights. He is about to be inducted into that society and to learn its secrets.
By 1118 or so, Hugh (as the author calls him) and eight of his fellow knights had relocated to Jerusalem. At their instigation and with the help of King Baldwin and the local Archbishop, they form the group later known as the Knights Templar. They are domiciled in stables on the grounds of the Temple Mount, sacred to Christians, Jews, and Muslims. According to their society’s thousand year history, there are tunnels and secret rooms under the Temple Mount replete with treasures.
With the excuse of building an underground monastery, the nine warrior monks start digging into the solid rock looking for who knows what secrets that may be there. Hugh is now middle aged and the torch had passed to young Stephen St. Clair (Sinclair) to lead the exploration. The Knights also have the job of protecting pilgrims and other travelers in the Holy Land. There are plenty of warrior versus warrior fights to keep your attention. Also present is a romantic triangle among lovely Princess Alice, conniving Bishop Odo and St. Clair that leads to conflict and murder. The end reveals the treasures the Knights were seeking but it was not only gold and silver coins. I had goose bumps when it was revealed.
The mixture of fact and fiction makes Mr. Whyte’s stories so fascinating. In addition, his writing skills and storytelling abilities are magnificent. If you are a fan of history thrillers, mysteries or the Knights Templar, this is definitely a book for you.
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–Jim Harris, retired book sales rep
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