The Youngest Templar: Trail of Fate, by Michael Spradlin (2009)
The first book in the Templar series was on my recommended reading list for Children’s Lit last semester because the author, Michael Spradlin, was coming to campus as part of our annual Children’s Literature Festival. We didn’t end up reading it in class, and I didn’t actually see Spradlin at the festival (I was off visiting with authors that I had read), and it wasn’t really high on my summer reading list. I mean, look at the cover. I will be the first to admit that I judge books by their covers ALL THE TIME. There are a lot of books out there. Why should I read the ugly ones? The children’s librarian I had been working with last semester had a similar reaction to it. But as the wonderful librarian that she is, she started it in hopes of encouraging her students to participate more actively in the Festival. And what did she find? She couldn’t put it down and immediately had to read the second one (the third has yet to be published, unfortunately). So I took her word for it. And her word was right.
Fifteen year old Tristan is an orphan who was dropped on the doorstop of St. Alban’s Abbey in England circa late 12th Century. Tristan’s life is changed forever when a group of Templar Knights show up in hopes of a resting place. Soon he becomes the squire to Sir Thomas of the Templars and is whisked away to Dover for battle training. Right from the beginning Tristan finds an enemy in Sir Hugh, a Templar who seems to have it out for Tristan for a reason that Tristan doesn’t understand. Also, he caught King Richard’s special guards following him without cause, leaving him to wonder what Sir Hugh and the King know about him that he doesn’t know.
After a few weeks of training, Tristan boards the ship with the rest of the Templars to head for the Holy Land as part of King Richard’s Crusade. Once in the Holy Land, Sir Thomas gives Tristan his most important task yet: to take the Christian relic, the Holy Grail, out of danger and back to England–and he is to let absolutely no one know that he has it. Yet, Sir Hugh seems to know Tristan’s burden, and the chase begins.
Along his journey, Tristan meets an archer from Sherwood Forest named Robard Hode (Robin Hood?), a deadly Hashshashin assassin named Maryam (Maid Marian?), and a young French princess named Celia (hmm…maybe I don’t know my Robin Hood trivia well enough, but I can’t come up with a connection for this one). Together, these capable youngsters seem to meet trouble at every turn with Sir Hugh constantly on their backs. If I say one thing for Michael Spradlin, it’s that he knows how to work a cliffhanger! Each chapter ends where you want to know more, and each book ends with a mysterious and aggravating “To be continued…” Unfortunately because of this, the books can’t really stand alone and I won’t have any sort of closure until the third book comes out in late October. Grr…
Another reason why I love reading YA books.
2 stars, both.