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The Youngest Templar
Book One of the Keeper of the Grail series

by Michael P Spradlin



      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!

The Book

Putnam Juvenile
September 18, 2008
Hardcover (reviewed from ARC)
0399247637 / 978-0399247637
Children's Fiction / 9-12 year olds
More at Amazon.com
Excerpt
NOTE: Deaf characters: There is a deaf / mute monk

The Reviewer

Janie Franz
Reviewed 2008
NOTE: Reviewer Janie Franz is the author of Freelance Writing: Itís a Business, Stupid!and co-author of The Ultimate Wedding Reception Book and The Ultimate Wedding Ceremony Book.
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