A historical novel set in the early 15th century details an English soldier’s dangerous mission in hostile territory.
In 1423, Henry V, the Plantagenet king of England, lies on his deathbed and summons his brother, John the Duke of Bedford, to his side. While the war against France goes well, England is becoming perilously low on funds. But the king has a plan to raise nearly inexhaustible reserves and entrusts the execution of that endeavor to John. Henry was approached by Charles d’Evreux and offered access to a fortune if he could reestablish the Order of the Temple, a militant band of monks banned a hundred years ago by the French government, and return the lands stolen from the group. Over the years, the Templars amassed unfathomable wealth and are willing to part with a considerable portion of it to see France under the rule of a friendlier king. But there is a catch: that fortune is housed in Outremer, land governed by the Turks, who are sure to be antagonistic to grasping interlopers. John picks Capt. Richard Calveley to accompany him on the hazardous journey. But John is ultimately unable to neglect his duties on the home front, so he entrusts Richard with the operation. Meanwhile, Richard’s estate is supervised in his absence by Father Hugh. The priest is blackmailed by Richard’s dastardly cousin, Geoffrey, who is obsessed with winning the ownership of the property. Father Hugh is caught in an indiscreet relationship with a married woman he loves and must choose between his public mortification and loyalty to Richard. This is the second installment in Tallon’s Richard Calveley Trilogy (The Lion and the Lily, 2016), and while a narrative ligature clearly runs from one book to the other, this stirring work can be read on its own. The author packs a lot of drama into a relatively short novel—there’s romance, political intrigue, religion, and war (Richard is shown to be an empathetic commander who is beloved by his men: “One glance from those jade green eyes and the company would cheerfully follow him to the ends of the earth”). Despite the various threads, the plot never seems cramped and is lucidly and briskly developed. In addition, the tale’s historical details are scrupulously presented, creating an aura of authenticity.
A historically astute and rousing adventure.