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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A fascinating story and strong debut
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...
Published on 28 April 2012 by SJATurney

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33 of 34 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not bad, but lacks something
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...
Published on 18 Nov 2007 by J Smith


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33 of 34 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not bad, but lacks something, 18 Nov 2007
By 
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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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A fascinating story and strong debut, 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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46 of 51 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing, 3 Nov 2006
By 
Roy Brookes "roybrookes" (Hamburg, Germany) - See all my reviews
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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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48 of 55 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Stunning Debut, 7 May 2006
By 
M. R. Houlton-hart (Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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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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18 of 21 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A thrilling debut, 21 Feb 2007
By 
Mr. Warren M. Fisher (East Grinstead, West Sussex United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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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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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars AMAZING READ!, 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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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Decent debut from Young, 15 Dec 2007
By 
B. J. Madeley - See all my reviews
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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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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good enough for me to buy the sequel, 1 Jun 2009
By 
Opinions are fairly dramatically split on this novel, it seems, but I'm in the positive camp. It was interesting and well-written, and although I have read some better, I've also read many far, far worse. I liked the split of movement between east and west, I liked the unfolding of Will's and Baybars' characters and their pasts. As a reader who very much dislikes novelists who write as though they're creating by numbers, I certainly didn't feel that Ms Young was trying to remember to cover set points. I thought the opening was excellent and what followed didn't, for the most part, disappoint. On the whole, I agree with A Harsono's review, and I'll be reading Crusade next.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Top-notch historical fiction, 13 April 2007
By 
Sam Richards (London, England) - See all my reviews
I have to disagree with another Amazon reviewer here: Brethren is anything but padded! It's action-packed right to the end, although it's the first book in a trilogy, so some of the characters' storylines are 'to be continued'. The action sequences are some of the best I've ever read, and Will and Baybars are really interesting characters. If you're interested in templars and the middle ages, like historical fiction, or high quality thrillers/adventure novels, I would strongly recommend Brethren.

This is a good time for fans of historical fiction. There's lots of stuff out there, but Robyn Young is absolutely among the elite. I'd put her up there with Bernard Cornwell and Conn Iggulden, so it's no surprise this novel went straight into the national top ten. I can't wait for the second book in the trilogy!
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A Good Start, 20 Sep 2007
By 
J. D. Newman (UK) - See all my reviews
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Unlike others who compared this unfavourably to Cornwell I found this book to be very refreshing. It combined a balanced view of the era (although you could argue it was too modern) with well developed 3-dimensional characters on both sides, something you would be hard pressed to find in any Cornwell book. The plot moves along fairly quickly and there are not many dull moments, there were a few jarring moments which didnt work plot wise but these are soon forgotten.

I think other reviewers have perhaps read this hoping for more Cornwellesque historical fiction and have been disappointed when it wasnt. This in my opinion is superiour to most of Cornwell and as a debut it bodes well for the future of the Author and the series.
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Brethren (Brethren Trilogy 1)
Brethren (Brethren Trilogy 1) by Robyn Young (Paperback - 25 April 2013)
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