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Thursday, March 1, 2018

Review: "The English Templar"

Despite what you might think after suffering through "Knightfall" there is actually some very good fiction that depicts the destruction of the Knights Templar without inventing fairy stories. In fact, one of the first novels I ever published was an account of this historical event -- with a love-story thrown in. The book is still available on amazon, albeit only in paperback: "The English Templar"

Below is a review by novelist Michael Schmicker 

Philip IV was one greedy royal.

Le Roi de fer (the “Iron King”) ruled France with an iron fist, financing his costly, incessant wars by shaking down the Church, Jews, bankers, and the Knights Templar. When Pope Boniface VIII protested His Royal Highness’s heavy tax on the clergy, Philip accused him of heresy and set up a French anti-pope, Clement V, under his thumb. When Lombard bankers who financed his fight with England demanded repayment of their loans, he expelled them from France and seized their properties. In 1306, he drove the Jews from France, then forced their debtors to pay the Crown instead. In 1307, he turned his avaricious eye on the assets of the Poor Fellow Soldiers of Christ and the Temple of Solomon (aka the Knights Templar) – a militant, monastic order created in 1120 to do good by protecting Christian pilgrims visiting the Holy Land. The poor soldiers did very well indeed over the following two centuries; by the time Philip moved against them, the Order owned valuable properties and assets throughout Christendom, including France.

On Friday the 13th October, 1307, Philip fell on them like a falcon on a rabbit.

"The English Templar" is a captivating fictional account of this shameful event, and its disastrous effects on a noble French family brave enough to hide Sir Percival de Lacy, an English Templar caught in Poitiers when Philip pounces.

Author and historian Helena Schrader knows her century and her subject; two of her novels – "Knight of Jerusalem" and "St. Louis' Knight" – were recently named Finalists for the 2014 Chaucer Award for Historical Fiction. They’re among a suite of well-received novels Schrader sets in the so-called “Age of Chivalry.” Barbara Tuchman’s National Book Award-winning work, "A Distant Mirror," exposed the sour truth of a medieval age wracked by senseless, unending warfare that spared no one. Schrader’s "English Templar" echoes the coarse brutality of this calamitous era, while shining a harsh light on a corrupt, morally-compromised, pre-Reformation Church complicit with Philip in applying the dreaded tortures of the Inquisition to destroy the Templars. She wisely balances the horrors of the day with a sweet love story. Young Felice de Preuthune falls slowly but inexorably for the outlaw Sir Percy, and vice-versa. Standing in the way is Umberto di Sante, an ambitious, unscrupulous, young cleric, determined to enjoy Felice as his concubine. The Pope has one; why shouldn’t he?

The Knights Templar have fascinated novelists as far back as Sir Water Scott. "Ivanhoe" (1820) showcased a Templar Knight as villain. More recently, Italian author Umberto Eco ("Foucault’s Pendulum") and writer Dan Brown ("The Da Vinci Code") profitably wove the legenday fraternity into best-sellers. Schrader successfully mines the same literary gold, crafting a compelling, expertly researched, and provocative tale of her own.

If the Middle Ages are your dish, don’t miss this delicious literary feast.

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