on 7 December 2006
This is the first book of the entire Templar-series I read, so my judgement is based on this particular book, without having read any of the other. Granted, reading the entire series might change my point of view, and maybe I just happened to start with one of the lesser books, but for now I cannot find but that this is a good enough but all in all mediocre historical novel.
The characters are lively enough allright, but lack depth and the diversity typical of any human being (especially 'the bad guys' are very one-dimensional). Also, I found the writing at times very longwinded and repetitive (I lost count of how many times Baldwin and Simon express how much they miss their wives, but by the umpteenth time it tends to get on your nerves).
Having said that, it's still an intrigueing whodunnit, with sufficient action. I've read better (a lot better) but I've also read worse, so I'll probably not stop here and try some of the other books of the series as well.
on 4 June 2013
Ok, I am still new to the series, I have not long read The Templar's Penance, and I was delighted to be seemingly now reading a great, great series. But this - The Outlaws of Ennor - is terrible. It could have easily have been called the Woes of Ye Olde Prickle Problems, for reasons which you'll know if you've read it, or (possible spoilers following), if not, are about to find out.
The mediaeval's very own Aubrey / Maturin - one Sir Baldwin and Simon the Bailiff, are blown off course on the way home from a pilgrimage in Spain; in fact they are shipwrecked and both are saved but separated, one on one island, and the other on one of the other islands of what are now the Scillies. The trouble is, they are two separate communities; although the feudal pyramid of authority meets somewhere, at island level they do not, one group is administered by one sub-authority (whether church or state) and the other part of the small group of islands by another. Not only that, both distrust the other and there are historical tensions.
Tales like this simply have to have contrivances and coincidences which in any deep analysis would seem to be founded on quicksand, but no matter, they are needed in most branches of fiction, and here it comes in the form of two murders, one after the other, around the same time as the two friends are safe on land again. Their own stations in life and the links, however distant, see them both (whether invited, pressured or even suggested by the friends) investigating a murder each, without each other's knowledge. Now, all that side of the story is fine, I enjoyed it tremendously. The characters, as usual, are such bloody liars, that it is very very hard to be Columbo in your armchair, desperate to beat the author to a Poirot style unmasking at the denouement, so I just could not make my mind up as to who was the killer or killers - Mr Jecks hid this fact very very well. The involvement of pirates was good too. It is a shame though, this side of the story alone was a good 4 star effort, but the padder-out to this tale was woeful - oh dear, it really was.
One of the island couples, using a modern euphemism - were having trouble in Paradise. This centred on the husband being impotent. Ok, we know how life was lived in the raw in those days, in fact this is covered well in one of the author's notes, but, to have it hog so much of the tale? Nah, it was an unsatisfying (pardon the pun) side-story / distraction / deflector from murder, tension, local politics, the church and piracy, all spoiled by one islander's John Thomas not working. This was not only too long, (the tale that is!) and done poorly to boot - it ruins the readership target - youngsters can take so much blood and gore and saucy stuff, of course they can, we all know they can and do - but this ups it by a few years, which is a shame. But even taking into account the possible standpoint of the author falling back on his having the right to aim his books at older readers only, it does not alter the fact that he spoiled his own tale of life on sea and land with such a silly sub-plot.
Will I carry on with the series? Yes. I am hoping against hope this offering was just the uncharacteristic turd in a rich trifle.
on 23 July 2009
Jecks is a writer who not only takes pride his craft, but joy in writing for his readership. I had to go back and locate his earliest works because what I had read at the time, a few years back, was so good. He does not write to make you feel good in knowing the ending at page 15 which some take as good writing because it serves their ego. I have compared his work to others and his work better than most. Even in a group writing effort, you can pick out his writing amongst his co-authors. I gave an academic editor a copy of such a work and that editor picked out Jecks and Bernard Knight's authorship from amongst the other authors -- and preferred their writing to the others.
I am sorry not to give you "the story." I just tell you that if you haven't read Jecks, you have been missing good tales woven within a well researched historical framework.