(Review) The Holy Lance: Book One of the English Templars Series by Andrew Latham

Publication Date: March 24, 2015.
Publisher: Knox Robinson Publishing.
Genre: Historical fiction, Crusades, Middle Ages, 12th century, English Templars.
Pages: 360.
Source: Free copy from Knox Robinson Publishing in exchange for a review.
Rating: 4 stars for very good.

Website for The Holy Lance. 

An interview from Mac Weekly.
Book spotlight from The Real Crusades History blog.

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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.

My Thoughts:
The history of the Crusades is an interesting topic. It has been on my list of subjects to read. I believe it is a controversial history. Their are people who believe the Crusades were only political and not religious. Their are those who believe it was only religious and not political. Their are people who favor the Christians. Their are those who are sympathetic to Muslims. To find a balance is difficult. The Holy Lance focuses on one particular group in the English Templars. They are Christians, warriors, devoted and committed to the cause.
I'm pleased Andrew Latham sent his book to a retired professor for historical accuracy. In historical fiction, a little freedom in the story is expected, but Latham placed an emphasis on as accurate as possible for his story. Included in the book is the "Historical Note." Andrew Latham explains his reading and research. I read books cover to cover and an author's research is fascinating to me. It is also important to understand how and why the book was written.
The Holy Lance is not a lengthy book. The book does not waste time but moves quickly through the theme of searching for the relic.
There is no love story. The Holy Lance is a war story, a historical Crusade story. The focus is on the brave men who fought, thoughts and feelings are expressed, but the emphasis is on the operations and movement of war.
There is a variety of voices in the story. One of the voices is a Muslim youth. The Muslims are referred to as Saracens. I believe his addition was significant. He gave a brief but solid view of why he was fighting, how he felt about the infidels, and his training.
The main character is Brother Michael Fitz Alan. He is a decisive and resolute man. He is brutal to the enemy. He has engaged in numerous battles and is hardened. However, he is not hardened to the Christian cause.
I've been introduced in story to the attire worn and instruments used in battle.
There are several words that I did not know the meaning of and looked them up in a separate dictionary. The words are Saracen, Nubians, Hospitallernaphtha bombs, and Turcomen. I believe it would help to have a small dictionary in the book for words unknown to modern society.
Two additional points I would like to see in the future books in this series:

  1. Internal struggles within the English Templars. Internal struggles make characters human. They give dimension. I don't want to see my heroes "fall into sin." Although this is a possibility in humanity. We all have our weaknesses, and a point where we cannot go on in a battle, whether in a war battle, or in a life experience period.
  2. Grow the story line of other Crusaders who do not have the right intentions. Immoral characters make moral characters illuminate.   

Praise for The Holy Lance:
“A timely and compelling novel. The Crusades inform and often infect our understanding of the contemporary Middle East, and while this book is fiction it reveals much of the truth about that misunderstood era. Outstanding reading.” – Michael Coren, award-winning television host, radio personality, syndicated columnist, and best-selling author of fourteen books, including most recently The Future of Catholicism
“A fascinating and thrilling story played out under the boiling heat of Palestine at a time when two cultures clashed violently over the ultimate prize of Jerusalem. Andrew Latham has created a believable and sympathetic lead character in the Templar Fitz Alan as well as providing us with a thrilling insight into the mysteries of the Templar order. A most enjoyable tale, like that of an experienced jongleur, set against the personal conflict between Richard of England and Saladin. It vividly resurrects the life and death struggle between Saracen and Crusader.” –Dr. Paul Doherty, OBE, historian and critically acclaimed author of dozens of works of historical fiction, including The Templar, The Templar Magician and most recently The Last of Days
“Grizzled warriors, an epic conflict, a fabled quest: Latham’s engrossing tale of violence and faith careens savagely through the Third Crusade and its legendary clash of wills – ‘Coeur de Lion’ versus ‘Saladin’, ‘Frank’ versus ‘Saracen’. The splendid English Templar, Michael Fitz Alan – flawed, fearless, lethal – here joins the front rank of historical fiction’s greatest warriors.”- Dr. Dean F. Oliver, award-winning author, director of research at the Canadian Museum of History, and Knight of the Order of Orange-Nassau
“Violent and visceral…. meticulously researched… superbly plotted…. The Holy Lance is historical fiction at its best!” – Steven A. McKay, bestselling author of Wolf’s Head and The Wolf and the Raven
“If you’re looking for an historical adventure soaked in blood… The Holy Lance delivers…. Latham shows a welcome attention to the complexities of the Crusader world and to the details of Templar life. A satisfying amount of blood is shed as Michael Fitz Alan and his Templar troops battle their way towards their goal. And the book offers a rousing conclusion, with the promise of more to come. Bring it on!” – Jack Hight, author of The Saladin Trilogy

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.
For more information and updates, please visit Andrew Latham’s website. You can also find him on FacebookTwitter, and Goodreads.

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