I was fascinated, then, to discover that the book is not simply an 'usandthem' Templars and Muslim thing. It also falls blessedly short of the almost inevitable (these days) DanBrowning of the Templars. There is a tendency now to see them as a mystical, secretive, barelyChristian bunch with demon worship etc. Since I personally believe that they were likely mostly goodhearted and pious men who also happened to be shrewd business managers, the whole 'creepy' thing just annoys me.
Robyn has built up, instead, a secret sect within the Templars, using the mysteries surrounding the order and its eventual fall, to create secrets within secrets while still avoiding the pittrap of Templar weirdness and demon worship. The Templars in Brethren are like an onion, layers within layers, and (as you would expect) it is only toward the end of the book when you start to get a glimpse of what is at the heart of this sect. I was most pleased to find that what could have been said demon worship, weirdness and even supernatural guff was, instead, exactly what I've always thought could have been the case: a deep level of understanding and acceptance that goes far beyond the simple Christian message.
I will try to give nothing away. Some reviews I've seen on the book say that the writing style is rigid and slow, the book too protracted and the characters a little wooden. I found the writing to be easy enough and flow well, myself. I suspect the style eases into the second book. It is, after all, a debut, and any writer's style only settles with a second book, but I had no issue with the style.
I did find some of the characters' traits a little obvious or expected. I wouldn't say they were wooden or onedimensional or anything like that, but one of the other reviewers said they are a tad underdeveloped and I can see where they have come up with this decision. I assume, though, that this is a facet of this being the first book in a trilogy and that the characters will continue to grow and deepen.
I did find the book a long one to go at, I have to say, not that it was a problem. I enjoyed every page of the story.
I will certainly be reading the rest of the series. This could and should have been so much better. All the necessary elements seem to be there for a great memorable story only for it to disappoint and frustrate far more than invigorate or appeal. To use an analogy, imagine having all the right ingredients for a delicious cake, mix them together, bake and getting an undercooked barely edible biscuit instead.
The author manages the notable feat of taking five hundred long pages to achieve less than what others have in twothirds as many pages. Young seems to prefer maintaining a meandering noncommittal approach throughout the story than actually giving the reader something to energise & intrigue them, or someone to connect or at the very least empathise with.
As it stands, the most interesting character in the book is actually the main antagonist, Baybars, who hardly has an chapters dedicated to him in comparison to the hero whom you're supposed to care about.
The book is decidedly overlong, to the extent that it becomes a chore to even care any more about even finishing the story by around 3/4s of the way through with another 100 pages still to go.
There's also some pretty lazy storytelling and plot manoeuvres to contend withsuch as at height of danger hero gets supposed message from heroine to meet her in place she'd never go, which neatly delivers him into the hands of the villains, or telling notable chunks of the story in hazy recollections in passing rather than actually include them in the action, especially when some of them are the most interesting parts of the story.
Overall very disappointing as there's a tangible sense that this could have been so much better if the author had only cut out more of the dead wood and, well, got on with it.
It's not been bad enough to put me off trying again with the series but episode 2 will have to seriously pick up it's game for me to stay with it. Brethern was a good book. I don't particularly find it amusing to read historical fiction books but I loved this book because actual events from history are also included. I loved the writing, it did not bore me one single bit even though it was detailed. Despite the fact that it's been written by a Christian author, the events are actually accurate and I did not see for the most part any bias, which really amused me. I even went as far as comparing the events to my own historical references and to my surprise they agreed with the majority of the events of the book.
Again I am noting that the book is both fiction mixed with nonfiction, and the nonfiction part is what I am saying is accurate, the nonfiction part though I was not very keen about and did not really care for the characters or what was going on with them, but I like how everything was put together by the end of the book. (: The historical research done by this author is obvious in the story and she should be given credit for doing a great job on it however, I just could not connect with the characters. The main character was too weak and the conversations between him and his other teenage friends sounded more like modern day teenagers. While most of the chapters started with beautiful description of the landscape etc., sometimes they just seem out of place. It was like a mix match of scenery and characters. This was my first book by this author so am not sure whether I am rating her too harshly and need to read her other books to change my mind. BRETHREN, the first entry in Robyn Young's acclaimed epic trilogy about the travails of a young man on the path to becoming a Templar knight during the disastrous end of the Crusades, is full of interesting details and twisting plotlines. Will Campbell, the hero of the story, is a youth damaged by a tragic event which has torn his family apart. As he struggles to gain his knighthood in the Templar Order, where he's been assigned by his father, who's taken Templar vows and left for service in the besieged Holy Land, Will befriends a fellow knightintraining, Gavin, as well as a mysterious young woman named Elwen. These fateful friendships, combined with a stolen secret book and the raging vengeance of the Mamluk sultan, Baybars, who has determined to wrest all Christian holdings in Palestine, begin as separate plot threads that are slowly woven into a story that is partthriller and parthistorical adventure, and, despite its daunting length, quite entertaining.
Though its "Da Vinci Code" blurbs advertise the book's masscommercial appeal, in truth there is little similarity between Brown's ubiquitous contemporary novel and Ms Young's meticulously researched account of the final years of the Crusades as seen through both Christian and Muslim eyes. The ploy of the secret book drives the plot far less than the historical events surrounding it, and while the story is malefocused (Young knows how to write a battle scene), there is plenty here to interest readers of both sexes. Her portrayal of Baybars, in particular, is mesmerizing; from the starshaped defect in the sultan's eye to his intense drive to avenge his race, he captures our awe and even empathy in spite of his savagery. Other characters are equally well drawn, including some memorable walkons from a suave, predatory Prince Edward, son of Henry III, and the crotchety, sage old priest who holds the secret of the Brethren. There is even a tantalizing hint of controversy in the stable groom Simon's unrequited friendship with Will.
Being the first of three books, BRETHREN leaves us hanging, and eager to start the second installment, CRUSADE. Brethren is a good read about the Templars during their decline in Outremer from around 1267 to 1272 and about the Mamluks who were rising in turn.
The main overarching story of Outremer and Christians vs Muslims is told from the perspective of both camps, which I enjoyed. It was well laid out and had well developed characters. We spend time in France, England and Outremer and learn a fair bit about life as a Knight and what was going on at the time.
There were also a few storylines embedded in the main arc, dealing with some teenagers training to be Templars and a couple of friends associated with them. Unfortunately for me, this part of the story was riddled with YA tropes that mildly annoyed me. The weren't dealbreakers, but when these tropes got going I did put the book down and read something else for a couple of days.
The teenage storyline had a Quest, of course, and our teenagers were the main players in both the evil and heroic aspects of said Quest. As one would expect, the good guys are conveniently thwarted at just the critical moment a few times in a row. And we couldn't be without the boy and girl professing their love for eachother only moments before they're torn apart by acts of villains, the villains of course being very villainous and the heroes being very honourable. I did get a bit annoyed.
Thankfully I liked our teenage main character enough that I wasn't turned away. I'll definitely keep reading the series, in part because I don't know much about this time and place, but also I admit I want to know what happens next!
It seems Young was great at writing the part based on history and which had adult protagonists but the part that was fiction and populated with teenagers felt forced and not very believable.
I would still recommend it. Sometimes I bemoan the fact that I have too many books to read which means that it takes me a while to get to them all. I bought Brethren months ago but only recently did it rise to the top of my to be read pile. Once I started reading it I was chagrined that I hadn’t read it sooner. This is one terrific tale of the 13th century and the turmoil between East and West, between Christian and Muslim and between the various knight orders especially of the Templars and Hospitallers. It seems that everyone wants to bring the Templars down and they all go to great lengths to pursue that agenda. The author has put together what I think is a microcosm of what secular and religious powers are at their worst and has wrapped that up in a drama filled, emotionally tense story. The characters are all too human, some are even, well let’s say subhuman and the plot and twists are sublime. Now that I have the first book under my belt I will for sure be tackling the rest of the series with great anticipation. 5 stars.
About the author:
Robyn Young was born in Oxford and grew up in the Midlands and a fishing village in Devon, during which time she won awards for poetry and edited a regular page in a regional newspaper. After hitchhiking to Brighton at 19, she worked as a festival organiser, a music promoter and a financial advisor. She wrote two novels before gaining a Masters in Creative Writing at the University of Sussex.
Her first published novel, BRETHREN, went straight into the Sunday Times top ten, where it remained for five weeks, becoming the bestselling hardback debut of the year. It entered the New York Times top twenty on publication in the US and was named book of the year by German newspaper Bild. Her second novel, CRUSADE, reached number 2 and REQUIEM completed the trilogy. In 2007, Robyn was named one of Waterstone’s twentyfive ‘authors of the future’, judged by a panel of one hundred industry insiders who were asked to nominate the authors they believed would contribute the greatest body of work over the next quarter century.
The inspiration for Robyn’s new bestselling trilogy, which began in 2010 with INSURRECTION and continued in 2012 with RENEGADE, was inspired by a research trip to Scotland and is based on the life of Robert Bruce. The third novel, KINGDOM, will be published in 2014 in the month of the 700th anniversary of the Battle of Bannockburn.
Alongside writing novels, Robyn has collaborated on a WWII screenplay. Her novels have been published in 22 countries in 19 languages and together have sold almost 2 million copies. It has taken me a long time to read book one in this Brethren trilogy. Which is unusual for me, seeing as Robyn Young is one of my favourite authors and I loved her Insurrection trilogy and I really enjoyed book one, Sons of the Blood, in her new trilogy, New World Rising.
I think I avoided Brethren for so many years because of regular comments from fellow readers on it being more romance based than the trilogies mentioned above. Having now read Brethren, I am surprised that people say this. I did not find it romance heavy at all. Not to the stage where it would put off a reader who does not enjoy romance. There is a relationship between two young characters that develops into something stronger as they grow up, but I never found it ‘romancy’ nor melodramatic.
It took me a while to get into the read due to maybe a third of the book being consumed by characters as children and young adults. Now this, of course, is personal taste. It is neither a negative about the book or a fatal story wrecker, it is just that, no matter how much I like or love the author’s work, I never like hanging around in the child or young adult phases and I felt Brethren dwelled there too long. I prefer stories set around adults; doing adult things, viewing life through an adult’s eyes, talking in adult voices.
This is not going to be my favourite Young novel, I mean, how can this strong debut ever compare to the beauty of the Insurrection trilogy? It just cannot, for the simple fact that it is indeed a debut. By a younger Robyn Young. With Insurrection, the author was older, wiser, more experienced as a writer. She had obviously learned a lot about herself. Learned how she wanted to write and in what voice her stories should be told. Brethren is Robyn Young in training wheels. She was not quite ready for aerial flips, tyre grabs and tailwhips.
Still, it is a decent, solid read. It had its moments where I maybe didn’t want to pick it up, and then it had its moments where I could not wait to pick it up.
With a tale split between the Templars in the west and the Mamluks in the east, and then the coming together of both medieval super powers, it is drawn out as a very detailed and intelligently done plot with sub plot aplenty.
It had a lot of promise and I look forward to reading the next two books in the trilogy, Crusade and Requiem. I’ve heard good things about them both and I will try to slot them into my reading schedule this year or early next year. Okay, so I didn't quite read all of it, but I read most of it so as far as I'm concerned IT'S READ. Sod it. What a load of absolute tripe. It isn't even good tripe, it's badly written tripe.
The characters were badly written cardboard cut outs. Will sounded like some kid directly out of High School, minus modern day slang. Elwen looked like she had just walked out of a PreRaphaelite painting what with her long flowing hair that flowed loose down her back, golden tresses that quite often fell loose from her cap to fall down her shoulders.
Way too much infodumping exposition, way too many flash back sort of scenes. In fact, there would be a flash back scene of something that happened within the last hour let along the actual past.
Young must have had a tremendous work out with her thesaurus what with all the dull adjectives and adverbs she came out with. Viciously seemed to be her most favourite descriptive word. No one could do anything, even just bite their finger nails if it was viciously.
Badly written sword fights with swords arching and armour clanking or clinking. Badly written everything.
I've enjoyed books that haven't been well written before. The Pillars of the Earth hardly boasted good writing from Follett but the difference is that I believed in that story. I believed it was set in the medieval period. I believed in the characters.
There was nothing in this book to make me believe I was in medieval England or France. There was a lot of pretty sounding, completely useless description about the air or something, but nothing that really grounded me in the story or the time. It could have been set in the modern day if it weren't for the fact she always gave the date and place at the beginning of every new chapter or scene. And considering it is about Templar knights, there is barely any reference to religion or even a sense of faith or belief. Whenever it crops up it is as a plot device or as a wooden prop to back the story up with.
If you want to read a book about the Templars... read The Da Vinci Code. I can't believe I'm saying this, but that was by far better then this tosh.