The Youngest Templar (Book 1)
Tristan was an abandoned foundling raised at a monastery and taken as a squire by the Knights Templar. Caught in the midst of the Third Crusade, he faces battle before being entrusted with one of the greatest treasures of the Knights, which he must attempt return safely to England.
I had to speed read through this one as my intrepid cataloger needed to know whether or not it was supposed to go in Teen or Juvenile Fiction. Fortunately, it reads very fast.
Though the protagonist is fifteen, the book is written for the ten-twelve year old boy range. Tristan is young and eager, and also interested in his own mysterious past. Spradlin suggests that he's a son either of nobility or aristocracy and him having the knowledge of his birth seems to be a threat to someone--possibly King Richard.
Blending in characters from Robin Hood (I confess I missed the first reference to Friar Tuck), Spradlin gives a dose of history without getting too deeply or dryly into the subject. The difficulties of having noble warriors who believed themselves answerable not to their kings but only to Rome is touched on, and Spradlin does a credible job of giving the background of the Templars in a manageable format. One understands how a young boy, sheltered in a monastery, could be swept up on this chance to see action and fight for the church who had raised him.
Spradlin also makes the Templars' enemies very human and, while not going into graphic detail, does not shy away from the realities that wars and battles are deadly. It's done in a thoughtful manner which will remind readers that there are human faces, brilliant planners and leaders, and different ideas on the otherside of the battleground.
When I read this I immediately knew to whom I would suggest it. There is one of the home schooling families whose elder son has often asked me for reading recommendations. He's gotten through Madeline L'Engle and it's been a stretch trying to locate fiction that I really thought he would really enjoy and find the characters relateable. When I saw him last week I pounced and recommended this new title. It's on hold for him (of course it was checked out) and he promises me an opinion.
In the interim, I'm looking forward to the next volume of this adventure.