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review 2017-11-17 15:18
Shroud of Dishonour
Shroud of Dishonour - Maureen Ash

A Templar Knight Mystery


Lincoln, May, 1202


It was not the third but the fifth book in this series which came my way - I am working serendipitously here with second-hand paperbacks - and this one opens with an unusual and mysterious Prologue: two Knights Templar outside a brothel in the suburbs of Acre (in Outremer, the Holy Land), one reluctant to enter, the other determined to go in and do his business – which is not, as it happens, what you might expect.


It is a story that would be all too easy to spoil by inadvertently blurting out "spoilers"; suffice it to say that what happens there, then, is intimately connected with the death a few months later in Lincoln of two prostitutes, and an attack on a third who manages to defend herself with a sharp little knife she carries on her belt (wise girl). (Though no doubt in modern Britain she would be charged with assault and being in possession of a deadly weapon.)


Why prostitutes? wonders our hero, Sir Bascot de Marins. Because they are easy victims, peculiarly vulnerable and defenceless? Yet the killer seems to be targeting the Templars rather than prostitutes as a group: he makes each murder look as though it had been committed by a member of the Order.


Or is the killer in fact a member of the Order?


Bascot, who first came to Lincoln (with Gianni, a starving street-kid he had picked on his travels, tagging along) in order to recuperate after eight years as a captive – a slave – in the Middle East, has now rejoined the Order and is due to sail for Portugal, where the Templars are committed to aiding the Portuguese in their fight against the Moors. But of course he is roped in to assist in the investigation and driven by his hatred of cold-blooded murder of the innocent and defenceless he does so with his usual quiet modesty.


But will he go to Portugal when all this is sorted out? Will the next Templar Knight Mystery be set there, among the olives and the orange trees? Or will this be the last of these books? You have to read to the very end to find out – and to find out who has been going around killing working girls, and why.


I love this series set in my second favourite period (the 12th and early 13th centuries), in this case during the reign of King John, son of Henry II (though the King himself does not appear in this story). 

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review 2015-04-07 19:17
The Bone-Pedlar
The Bone-Pedlar - Sylvian Hamilton

The first of the Richard Straccan books.


England, 1209


The story opens with what must be one of the best opening lines ever: "In the crypt of the Abbey Church at Hallowdene, the monks were boiling their Bishop," and is set in the period known as the Interdict, during the reign of bad King John, when (the King having fallen out with the Pope) the whole of England was placed under interdict and no religious ceremony of any kind was permitted to take place.


It is as though we are there:


We see the poverty of the priests (they can perform no ceremonies, no marriages, nothing – not even funerals: the dead are piling up!), and the desperation of the monks and nuns – unless, that is, they happen to possess an important relic, in which case of course pilgrims come to the abbey to see, pray at, kiss, the sacred object, and pay for the privilege. And the monks will do anything to obtain such a relic.


We meet a spy who dresses as a beggar, maggots, stench and all, mingles with the crowd in a crypt with a spring of holy water, is caught and thrown out - and becomes for a while one of Straccan's team; a wandering monk with nine "loonies" in tow, taking them on a lifelong pilgrimage from shrine to shrine; abjurers, forced to live between the high and low tide lines, desperately trying to get on board any vessel departing the country. What is an abjurer? She does not explain. She shows us glimpses (often wonderful cameo-scenes) of England at the time, but she does not lecture us.


In fact, Abjuration of the Realm was an oath taken to leave the land for ever. By taking this oath, one could avoid penalties such as mutilation or even death, though abjurers who did not have the means to travel abroad – Britain being an island – died on the wet sand between the tide-lines of starvation and exposure.


There are three very believable sorcerers. Two are evil, a depraved Scottish nobleman not above sacrificing children (he kidnaps Straccan's daughter), and his accomplice, an ancient desert Arab the nobleman had picked up on his travels. The third is a Templar, also with a background in the Middle East, whose knowledge of the magic arts has got him into trouble with his Order, but who uses it to oppose the two evil sorcerers.


There are two witches, both young, both beautiful, one good the other bad: (Straccan falls in love with the former, in lust – has he really been bespelled? –  with the latter). There is a saint in the making, a genuine saint. There is the King, parsimonious John, who turns out to be one of the most relaxed and amusing characters in the book.


And there is our hero himself, Sir Richard Straccan, ex-Crusader who now deals in relics – "authentic" relics, not the cheap fakes sold for coppers at every street corner. These relics, which are extremely valuable, are usually the body parts of saints. Such objects as a kneecap of St Peter, three hairs of St Edmund, and the Holy Foreskin are mentioned, as well as an ear – the ear of St Marcellinus:


'Can't find it. Haven't had an ear before, have we?' Peter turned over several small boxes, pouches, bundles. 'No. Oh, is this it?' He held up what looked like a withered blackened folded scrap of leather. 'I suppose it might be an ear.' Both men looked doubtfully at it. 'Who was Marcellinus, anyway?'

Straccan consulted his list. 'It says here, an early blessed martyr. Let's have a look.' He turned the darkened scrap over in his fingers, sniffed it, shrugged and handed it back. 'Keep it dry. It'll start to smell if the damp gets at it.'


One relic that keeps cropping up is the finger of St Thomas, which Straccan has been commissioned to obtain for a wealthy patron. Little does he know that the finger is needed to make up the sum of eleven relics (of the eleven good disciples of Jesus) that the Scottish sorcerer will need to protect himself when he sacrifices Straccan's daughter in his attempt to call a devil from Hell.


Five stars, because a lot of the book is just as good as that opening line, and what isn't is as good as anyone else's opening lines.  

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review 2013-09-28 17:31
Early Unraveling of Charming by Elliott James
Charming - Elliott James

Title: Charming

Series: Pax Arcana Book One
Publication Date: September 24, 2013
John Charming isn't your average Prince... 

He comes from a line of Charmings — an illustrious family of dragon slayers, witch-finders and killers dating back to before the fall of Rome. Trained by a modern day version of the Knights Templar, monster hunters who have updated their methods from chainmail and crossbows to kevlar and shotguns, he was one of the best. That is — until he became the abomination the Knights were sworn to hunt.

That was a lifetime ago. Now, he tends bar under an assumed name in rural Virginia and leads a peaceful, quiet life. One that shouldn't change just because a vampire and a blonde walked into his bar... Right?
 photo B1426D4C-9EEC-4C0B-A1FB-90524B03C0CA-1855-000001A1E82B3B3E_zps17d98f4d.jpg 

My Thoughts

A copy was provided through NetGalley and the Publisher in exchange for an honest review

When I first heard of this book I was really excited. We are talking Knight Templars and fairy tales here, how could you not get excited? But then I started seeing an influx of low ratings and it put a damper on my feelings. I wanted this book to be great! And it seemed like it was going to disappoint. I requested it anyway cause I just had to find out for myself.  So what did I find out? I found out this book wasn't mind-blowing or amazing, but it was far from bad either. It was good enough.

I think the biggest problem people will have is the info-dumping, because there is a lot of it, and not just in the start it's throughout the whole book. The thing is though, that while I knew it was coming across as info-dumping and not just seamless world-building it was detracting from the story that much either. Yes there was a staggering amount of it, but mostly I just found the whole thing interesting, like how it turns out the reason we wave our hand in greeting was to show the person that our knife-wielding hand was empty. Maybe some people will find it annoying or useless, but I liked it. There was also a purpose for it, but I won't go into that.

Speaking of world-building, it was awesome. There are so many myths and legends woven together to make up this new world that I found it fascinating. It wasn't just western world myths either, it was eastern as well, with mentions of the Nagas, Buddhism and Hinduism. Everything played a role here. From the most obscure detail that most people wouldn't have through twice about, here it was giving some kind of meaning and reason for it, and yes explained. But again, I didn't mind, I liked knowing how everything tied together and where everything came from.

Next up we have the characters. I liked them all! It was a rag tag group of misfits both supernatural and human alike. Each with their own back stories, motivations and skills that added to their impromptu monster hunting group. I specially liked Molly and her odd ways of coping of things. As for our main character, I liked how smart and accepting he was of people. That may be a bit contradictory but he made it work. He would keep his suspicion of people always in the back of his mind, but he was also willing to work with and accept these misfits. In short, he was a pretty great character, they were all nicely fleshed out.

As for the plot, it all started as some random vampire hunting that just escalated very quickly and then took some very interesting twists and turns that kept entertained the whole way through. And to add some more spice to it, there was some romance that I must say was handled quite well. There was no insta-love/lust. Just some good old-fashioned attraction with flirty banter every now and then getting a bit more serious towards the end. But it all felt real and it evolved and what felt like a reasonable pace.

After all that, what I'm simply trying to say is, if you like urban fantasy, give this book a try, don't let the info-dumping turn you off or intimidate you, you'll at the very least enjoy this unique world.



Would I Recommend it?

Source: unraveling-words.blogspot.com/2013/09/early-unraveling-of-charming-by-elliott.html
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review 2011-05-06 00:00
The Alehouse Murders (Templar Knight Mystery Series #1)
The Alehouse Murders - Maureen Ash I thought this was a decent historical mystery. Sometimes the author focuses a little too much on the historical detail instead of the plot, but I'm interested enough to read more by this author.
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review 2009-06-01 00:00
A Plague of Poison - Maureen Ash Not strong enough for me to seek out any further publications in the series
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