Michael P Spradlin knows how to tell a tale! Author of the
Spy Goddess manga series about a teenager who finds a reason to become a superhero, Spradlin's imagination was
ignited—almost literally—as a child when he used smuggled fireworks to blow up his plastic army men and
miniature cars while pretending to be in some great battle. He has stated often that one hallmark of his action
adventure stories is that "stuff blows up." And indeed it does.
His newest series, the Keeper of the Grail, is a †medieval story set during the crusades. †The Youngest
Templar is the first installment and is absolutely one of the best adventure novels for children that I've ever
read! Fifteen-year-old Tristan, a young orphan who was raised in a monastery, is selected by Sir Thomas Leux, a
Templar Knight, to be his squire. Sir Thomas not only offers him a trade and an opportunity to see the world, he
holds a secret to Tristan's origins. That secret is also held by King Richard and evil Sir Hugh, who takes every
opportunity to bully young Tristan.
Set in England and the Holy Land, The Youngest Templar shows the glories and horrors of war through
Tristan's young eyes. Yet, even as the young man grows in skill serving his knight, including the use of the sword,
he is suddenly pushed out of the Templar world by Sir Thomas to carry the holiest of relics, the Grail, to Scotland
for safekeeping. That journey becomes the thread that the fabric of the entire series is woven from. There are many
dangers along the way and new friends: a young Arab girl named Maryam and a teenaged King's Archer named Robard Hode.
Given that there is a blacksmith named Little John in Dover, England, and deaf / mute Brother Tuck at the monastery,
Spradlin produces some very interesting twists on literary / historical icons.
All of Spradlin's characters are well drawn, even the minor ones that support the action. And, then there's the
action! Spradlin is able to capture the details of battle scenes without getting too caught up in military strategy
or too enamored with the size of the pyrotechnics that he's put on the page. Everything is done with just enough
tension and description to spur the story along—that's the mark of a great storyteller.
And, like many a great storyteller, Spradlin knows when to end each chapter and make you eagerly turn the page.
He also ends The Youngest Templar with a nail-biting cliffhanger that won't be solved until the fall of 2009
when the next book comes out. This is the second book series that I have read this year that uses old-fashioned
cliffhangers as a devise to get readers to the next book. I have never seen this in modern novels, though I've read
that it was a device used in Dime Novels in the Americas and Penny Dreadfuls in England. Needless to say, it works!
Run out and grab a copy of†The Youngest Templar for all of the young readers on your holiday list. It will
be one book that will launch readers into an adventure that they'll be fantasizing about for a long time! Just keep
the fireworks away from them!