Thursday, August 30, 2007

The Tilecutter's Penny by Caiseal Mor

He has gone to follow the Crusades. She must do everything to defend their Irish home.

It is the time of Richard the Lion Heart, the time of the Crusades and the mysterious Knights Templar. Donal, as Irish chieftain, and Robert, his Norman lord, travel to the Holy Land, as their fathers did before them. But before Donal leaves, he gives his wife Eilish a token - half of a penny broken by the tilecutter. Should she receive the other half, she will know he is dead.

As Donal and Robert become entwined in the dangerous intrigues of the Knights Templar in the Holy Land, Eilish must also deal with intrigues at home.

From the lush beauty of twelfth-century Ireland to the dangerous secrets of a desert fortress, The Tilecutter's Penny is a rich and gripping story of action and adventure, love and betrayal, and legendary treasures worth more than life itself.

Caiseal Mor is an Australian author, but I hadn't heard of him before I was talking to Kailana one day and she mentioned him as he also writes fantasy/historical fantasy, although I believe that this is a straight historical fiction novel

It is set in twelfth century Ireland and Outremer, and features heavily the exploits of the Knights Templar and their enemies the Hospitallers of St John. Initially, I was tempted to say that the parts of the book that are set in the Holy Land were more developed, but as I think about it a bit more, I think that it is probably more that those sections are less predictable, to me at least.

Robert has just become lord of his father's lands. His father was a crusader, and has decided that now is the time for him to make good on his Templar vows and give up his life and become a monk, which means giving over his land and worldly possessions to his son, Robert. His younger son is something of a terror, and so is given nothing until he can prove that he is worthy. However, when Robert decides that he too must go on crusade, taking the local chieftain, Donal, as his man at arms, Robert has no choice but to leave his younger, more irresponsible brother in charge, therein providing a focus for the story back home in Ireland as well as the journey on the Crusades.

Most of the action in the Holy Land is to do with the saving a prominent Knight of the Templar order and some of the treasure of the order, after the hidden castle that they were hidden in was infiltrated by the enemy Hospitallers.

Whilst the story moves quickly, and the reader is taken on a fast and furious adventure with the two friends in the Outremer, it is with the story at home in Ireland that the story falters a little and becomes quite predictable. Donal's wife Eilish is left behind and must help to run the land in Robert and Donal's absence, which inevitably brings her into contact with the despicable caretaker lord. Before long he has decided that it is HIS birthright to be lord and so he therefore sets in place a plan to usurp him. First step...ensure that Donal's wife believes he is dead, and then set about marrying her so that he has not only his family pedigree, but also her pedigree as the equivalent of royalty to her people.

One thing that reading this book did make me want to do is to get more of a sense of where Outremer was, and for a short while there I was contemplating going on a Knights Templar reading binge but that died soon enough.

The book was interesting enough but not a fantastic read.

Rating 3/5

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