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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on 28 April 2012
I wasn't really sure what to expect from Brethren as I hadn't read a synopsis beforehand. Sometimes I find that adds to the book as it means I go into it with an open mind. Also, given my very rigid list of books to read, Brethren sneaked in by simply being "I quite fancy a read of that" as I walked past the bookshelf. That, for me, is quite rare. All I knew was that it involved the Knights Templar and the crusades.

I was fascinated, then, to discover that the book is not simply an 'us-and-them' Templars and Muslim thing. It also falls blessedly short of the almost inevitable (these days) Dan-Browning of the Templars. There is a tendency now to see them as a mystical, secretive, barely-Christian bunch with demon worship etc. Since I personally believe that they were likely mostly good-hearted and pious men who also happened to be shrewd business managers, the whole 'creepy' thing just annoys me.

Robyn has built up, instead, a secret sect within the Templars, using the mysteries surrounding the order and its eventual fall, to create secrets within secrets while still avoiding the pit-trap of Templar weirdness and demon worship. The Templars in Brethren are like an onion, layers within layers, and (as you would expect) it is only toward the end of the book when you start to get a glimpse of what is at the heart of this sect. I was most pleased to find that what could have been said demon worship, weirdness and even supernatural guff was, instead, exactly what I've always thought could have been the case: a deep level of understanding and acceptance that goes far beyond the simple Christian message.

I will try to give nothing away. Some reviews I've seen on the book say that the writing style is rigid and slow, the book too protracted and the characters a little wooden. I found the writing to be easy enough and flow well, myself. I suspect the style eases into the second book. It is, after all, a debut, and any writer's style only settles with a second book, but I had no issue with the style.

I did find some of the characters' traits a little obvious or expected. I wouldn't say they were wooden or one-dimensional or anything like that, but one of the other reviewers said they are a tad under-developed and I can see where they have come up with this decision. I assume, though, that this is a facet of this being the first book in a trilogy and that the characters will continue to grow and deepen.

I did find the book a long one to go at, I have to say, not that it was a problem. I enjoyed every page of the story.

I will certainly be reading the rest of the series.
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33 of 35 people found the following review helpful
on 18 November 2007
I had high hopes for this book. Promising a clash between civilisations during the time of the crusades, it seemed perfect material for a sweeping, thrilling historical epic. However, despite the book's initial promise, there's something about it that just doesn't work for me.

Don't get me wrong - it's not a bad book and, for a debut, it's probably quite good. It's certainly ambitious in its scope and themes. It's obvious that a lot of research went into many aspects of this book, particularly the settings and places (the book moves from medieval London and Paris to the Holy Land), and the author succeeds pretty well in capturing the essence and atmosphere of medieval life.

There are a few negative points, though. The first is the author's writing style. She can write, there's no doubt about that, and much of her prose is excellent; however, after a while it began to seem a bit heavy-handed and ponderous. I also agree with some other reviewers, who said it's clear that the author has a qualification in creative writing - the writing often seems very rigid, as though the author was more concerned with conforming to the technicalities of style rather than with story flow and ease of reading. That's a fairly minor point, though. To me, the two biggest let-downs of the book were character and plot (and, considering how important both are to novels, they were pretty big disappointments).

First of all, the characters seemed a bit wooden and under-developed, and weren't always that believable. The author also seems to spend a lot of time telling us how one of the lead characters, Will, is feeling, rather than showing us through his actions; he seems to spend a lot of time in introspection, fuming over real or imagined wrongs done to him by others, and it sometimes came across as whining. The dialogue of the characters was also unconvincing in many instances - some of it seemed far too modern for medieval times, which was surprising, as a lot of research obviously went into the book. I just can't believe that some of the dialogue would have been heard in the thirteenth century. As another reviewer mentioned, it was also hard to believe that a medieval knight - a highly trained, professional warrior - could be so easily overcome by a thief from the streets.

In terms of plot, nothing much actually seemed to happen and the book was, in my opinion, over-long. One of the main threads throughout the book - the search for the Book of the Grail - was resolved in a huge anti-climax, and made me wonder what the point of it was. The blurb on the back cover promised a 'collision' between the two main characters, which never actually happened. The whole book felt as though it was just setting the scene for the next two books in the trilogy - I wonder whether the author should have just started with book two, as that seems to be where the action will come from. In addition, I couldn't see the point of the sub-plot involving Will and Elwen - again, it didn't go anywhere and didn't do much to deepen the plot. Maybe I'm missing something, or maybe more will be revealed in the second book.

Having said that, it wasn't an awful book, and there was something about it that kept me reading to the end. As a first-time author, Young shows a lot of promise and has the potential to be a great writer - I'm just not sure she's a great storyteller. It wouldn't put me off reading the next book in the trilogy but, if that one fails to improve on the first, I probably wouldn't persevere with the third.
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46 of 51 people found the following review helpful
This is not a bad read and there is some interesting stuff about the Templars and the Hospitallers and their rivalries. I found the Mamluks / Saracens were quite sympatheitic. What let the book down for me was the cardboard cutout characterisation of the principals and the rather childish way they acted. Will Campbell, the main character, is first introduced to us as a boy and he never seems to grow up although he is moving in a grown-up and very dangerous world. His girlfriend Elwen is about the same. In their mid-twenties, almost middle-aged in the 13th century, they are mooning about like a pair of teenagers and yet we are expected to believe that affairs of state are entrusted to this pair. Prince Edward of England, one of the most powerful men in the world at that time, relies solely on one evil criminal to carry out his will. Oh come on. And his father Henry is portrayed as a virtual dolt when in fact he was a very astute and cunning monarch.

No this author can write flowingly but characterisation is not her strong point and neither is action. I found the battle scenes very sketchy. Overall very disappointed.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 19 July 2010
i was looking for a good novel set around the crusades to give me a better idea of the people and the time and this book has truly surpassed my expectations.

The authors writing is vary descriptive and you get a great feel of the place being described, you can almost feel and smell the environments in it. the story which is a bit slow to start soon picked up and once it got going i couldn't put the book down. its filled with great twists and incredible characters that i really began to care about. the story is not so much on the crusades but about the man Will Cambell and his time in the knights Templar training for knighthood in the hope his father will forgive him for something terrible he did in his past, its a real roller coaster ride. if you want battle scenes, betrayal, secrecy and murder the this book is for you. the crusades come alive.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 15 January 2012
I enjoyed this book despite some of the flaws other reviewers have already mentioned.
Some of the characters are wooden,others pantomime villains and the main character is hardly believable at times.Will Campbell is a deeply flawed character who lacks discipline,tact and common sense.Added to that he's a bit of a big girl's blouse forever crying and sulking.Hardly "Knight material" you might think let alone fit to join the Knights Templars.However he snivels and stomps his way into the ranks and after 600-odd pages the story builds up a head of steam...sadly coinciding with the last page.
So,it was rubbish then?
Oddly not and while I'm sure the story could have been told better with at least 100 pages lopped off it flows rather than drags even though there's a definite feeling of "was that it?" when the end is reached.I found myself having enjoyed it but not quite sure why,read like "Bernard Cornwell Lite" or even a book aimed at the teenage market.
The good news is that Brethren is the first in a trilogy and while it's quite entertaining the following two are very good indeed and probably more to the taste of Cornwell's masses of fans.Will thankfully "grows a pair",characters come to life,the story really kicks in,there's a lot more action and a lot more blood and guts..both are quite gory in fact.
Strange trilogy really,Brethren is a lot "softer" than the following books and different in style,almost as if it started out to be one thing then the author changed her mind and aimed for a different audience after book one.
We're all different and the person who recommended the trilogy to me liked Brethren better than the the following books.I enjoyed it but not enough to have been in a hurry to read the others if I hadn't already had them sitting on my bookshelf...which would have been my loss as the series as a whole is excellent.
This one's good but could be better...the others are better.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 19 February 2012
I've just finished reading this one as my first foray away from my usual historical mainstays of Philipa Gregory, Alison Weir, Bernard Cornwell and Simon Scarrow. Did I like it? Overall, yes, I was satisfied with it. Would I recommend it to others? No, if I want gritty medieval war stories then Berny C is my man I'm afraid.
The plot was fine, perhaps a bit far reaching for a debut but perhaps that will be adressed in the following parts of the trilogy, unless its a Dan Brown type of affair where Will Campell will go off solving other mysteries, we shall see. Most questions were answered and followed through, but at times I was left feeling that there was a lot of build up to a point, only for it to be skirted over very briefly once reached which was disappointing. The setting was good, the buildings and locations were pretty believable but I would have liked to have witnessed the battle scenes from a different perspective, I felt they were confused and myopic. The authors description of the smells around horses was repeated quite a lot, I don't know why that stood out to me but it did. Finally the characters, here is where my main source of disappointment lies. Will and Geraint? Dull. Elwen and Everard? Both underplayed. Prince Edward and Baybars? I wanted more on both of them. Rook seemed to be bought to some semblance of life as he was the only one who stirred up any kind of real emotion in me.
A previous reviewer said 'Bernard Cornwell lite'. I'll go with that.
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48 of 55 people found the following review helpful
on 7 May 2006
I was lucky enough to recieve an advance copy of this book, working in the book trade, and I was instantly blown away by the cover but the real treat lies inside. The story within is beautifully written and the research that has been done for this book shows in every amazing description. I would urge anyone to pick this up and read it.

A deep, fast paced adventure extraordinare, beautifully crafted and filled with passion, intrigue and excitement taking the reader from the Scottish Highland to England, France and finally to the Holy Land. From the first word to the last it is impossible to put down. Robyn Young really brings alive the turmoil and politcal machinations of the medieval age creating a stunning debut.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 9 May 2012
I haven't read much about the Crusades, and didn't realise until recently how many of them there were and over such a long period of history. I really enjoyed this book and thought the story was well thought out. There are times when it is quite protracted and perhaps the book could have been condensed by a hundred pages or so. I'm not wiorried about the length of a book, but it can be difficult keeping the pace going throughout a story, particulalry when there are so many sub-plots interwoven that ultimately lead together to tell the tale.

Haviong said that, I thought it was a thoroughly enjoyable read and I will certainly be reading the next in the sequel sometime. Although the book ends at a good point, it is difficult to leave it at that knowing there is another book that follows on.
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18 of 21 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon 21 February 2007
A marvellous read from start to finish - deftly plotted and thrilling - Young evokes a bygone world with a deft hand, avoiding lengthy exposition adn without letting the breakneck pace to flag. The only minus is the rather hackneyed and corny romance between the Will and Elwen, indeed remove the latter from the story entirely and nothing would be lost. However such faults can be forgiven in a first novel.

A breathtaking debut, exciting, informative and addictive, I can't wait for the next installment.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on 15 December 2007
Brethren is the first book produced by Robyn Young. It begins a series detailing the events of the crusades. As debut's go, this isn't a bad effort but the book is by no means a classic, however I feel the series will still be worth reading, as i'm sure the author will only get better with experiece. Therefore she should not be judged to harshly for producing a novel that isn't amazing at her first attempt.

Brethren is a very intersting novel, fabulously detailed and Young easily paints a vivid picture of life in the holy land. Unfortunately the story fails to keep you glued to the page as some novels do and you will not find it that difficult to put down when you have to. It is though enjoyable, but not a book your likely to read again.

Young is a new author worth keeping a eye on I feel, although this book itself does come across as being distinctly average on the whole.
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