Men, this is an historical novel for you. (Not that I'd want to put women off reading it. But historical novels which appeal to men are rarer than they should be.) The Knights Templar are endlessly fascinating - Special Forces monks are an uncommon breed - and their history has been endlessly distorted as a result. They are seen as sinister conspirators, guerrilla heretics, a dangerously powerful secret brotherhood, and the unseen hand behind myriad global events. (Just read Dan Brown's "The Da Vinci Code" if you want a full serve of all this nonsense.) Yet the Templars began as idealists and a military elite, monks in armour leading the charge at the Crusades. They went on to play an unsung and largely forgotten role in some of the great events of European history. In this superbly researched novel, Clive Lindley traces their early history, beginning with the Crusades. He writes military action particularly well. The battle scenes are compelling, and for the first time you begin to understand the military tactics that deliver victory to men fighting with pikes and swords against armoured horsemen. Lindley's account of the Battle of Bannockburn, which consolidated Scotland's independence, is breathtaking. His treatment of the Templar's estrangement from the Pope (anticipating Martin Luther by several centuries) and their brutal handling at the hands of the Inquisition, is both compelling and heart-breaking. He has a good grasp of how politics works, and brings this insight to the labyrinthine politics of the Middle Ages. This is fine historical fiction, occasionally a bit long on background and explanation, but excellent for anybody who likes combining their learning with wallowing in a good yarn. This is the first book in a series. I look forward to the rest.