The Templar Knight

by Jan Guillou

Reviewed by Margaret Donsbach

The Templar Knight by Jan Guillou The Templar Knight is the second in a trilogy beginning with The Road to Jerusalem, set in medieval Sweden. It has been ten years since Arn Magnusson and his beloved Cecelia were harshly penalized for prematurely consummating their anticipated marriage. Instead of wedding vows, Arn took the oaths of a Templar Knight and prepared to spend twenty years as a Crusader. Cecelia was sentenced to twenty years of penance in a convent under a vengeful abbess from a clan which, outside the convent, is battling Cecelia's for the Swedish throne.

Brought up in a monastery and trained by a former Templar, Arn embraces the Crusader mission of holding Jerusalem. But despite his vow of obedience, he thinks independently. His intelligence and compassion embrace a wider vision; his years of service in Palestine give him perspective and practicality. He later comes to recognize that things are "sliding downhill" after changes in the Templar leadership. "Now in Jerusalem no prayers were permitted except by Christians, and no Saracen doctors or Jews could work for either the Templar knights or the worldly ones.... And the Knights Templar seemed to be doing whatever they could to sabotage the peace that the regent, Count Raymond, was trying his best to maintain." In Sweden, Cecelia's trials echo Arn's. She must use her wits to survive the abbess's severe penances for minor or imagined infractions, while the battle for the throne penetrates even the secluded life in the convent.

With lucid realism, The Templar Knight portrays battle strategies and the triumphs and failures of the Templars culminating in the fateful Battle of Hattin. Readers familiar with other Crusade novels will find it superior to many, but perhaps not as fresh a story as The Road to Jerusalem, although its depth of insight makes it well worth reading. For readers new to the literature of the Crusades, it offers an illuminating, unusually clear portrayal of a historical period all too relevant to the present. (1999 in the original Swedish, English translation by Steven T. Murray 2010; 467 pages)

More about The Templar Knight at Powell's Books or

Other novels set during the 12th-century Crusades:

The Falcons of Montabard by Elizabeth Chadwick (2003), about a Norman knight who becomes a Crusader to restore his honor after he is caught with the king's mistress in 1120. More info

The Book of Saladin by Tariq Ali (1998), about Salah al-Din, the Kurdish warrior and sultan who reconquered Jerusalem from the Crusaders in 1187. See review or more info at Powell's Books

Jerusalem by Cecelia Holland (1996), about a Templar knight in Jerusalem in 1187, at the end of the Crusader Kingdom. More info

Nonfiction about the 12th-century Crusades:

The Road to Armageddon: The Last Years of the Crusader Kingdom of Jerusalem by W.B. Bartlett (2007), covers the years leading up to the Third Crusade, the same period covered in The Templar Knight. More info

The Templars by Piers Paul Read (2000), a history of the religious order of the Templar Knights. More info

Saladin: Hero of Islam by Geoffrey Hindley (2007), about the Kurdish leader who united Palestine against the Crusaders and won the Battle of Hattin. More info


The Battle of Hattin, 1187, an English translation of a medieval source describing the Battle of Hattin, at the Fordham University website

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