Rating: 4 out of 5
I have liked the idea of the Knights Templar from my early youth as probably many a lad interested in (military) history does/did. Not only is theirs a story filled with excitement; victories followed by defeats, and vice versa, but there’s also a very definite end-point, organised by the French King in his quest for money. This is a neater story — at least compared to the other well-known military orders — and therefore makes itself slightly more suitable to be treated as a continuous narrative. I think Mr Dan Jones delivers on this promise, but he could have done more.
When tomes are written about individuals and events, one cannot expect more than a cursory glance from a short book that yet spans two centuries. It should not come as a surprise that while the author has tried to bring the leaders of the Templars to life as well as he could have, we rarely get an individual picture of the people who were in “the room where it happens”. Every Grand Master of the Order quite possibly deserves an individual volume — and they are only some of the people involved in the story which covers the majority of the powerful realms in medieval Europe.
Despite these limitations, Mr Jones has drawn together a good-enough story describing the organisation. The structure of the book follows the various Grand Masters and their periods of rule so at least a few names from each epoch of the Order are brought forward. The author has also tried to be as unbiased as possible — as far as I can tell — in length arguments about Guy de Lusignan’s and Master de Ridefort’s numerous leadership failures.
Overall, I would recommend this unless the prospective reader already feels very strong in this field. The treatment of the trials that broke up the order is rather good in itself, so even if the Third Crusade and preceding decades are not of interest, that Part might be of interest.