The Templars by Dan Jones – An Audio Book Review

The Templars

Blurb:

The Knights Templar were the wealthiest, most powerful – and most secretive – of the military orders that flourished in the crusading era. Their story – encompassing as it does the greatest international conflict of the Middle Ages, a network of international finance, a swift rise in wealth and influence followed by a bloody and humiliating fall – has left a comet’s tail of mystery that continues to fascinate and inspire historians, novelists and conspiracy theorists.

Author: Dan Jones

Narrator: Dan Jones

Publisher: Head of Zeus

Running Time: 15hrs 35mins

Release Date: 07/12/2017

Genre: Historical Non-Fiction

My Rating of ‘The Templars’: 4 out of 5

Purchase: Amazon, Audible

Review:

I’ve been on a bit of a history binge as of late as far as reading and listening (mostly podcasts for listening) goes, so was happy to keep the history machine rolling by picking this up. 1100s to the 1300s is a bit more modern than I’m used to, but old enough that I have a good knowledge of it. So I grabbed this with a good deal of interest.

Although this was a well-researched and well-presented account of the Crusades, the Holy Land and pretty much everything that occurred within that period of time in said land, a history of the Templars it was not. Well, it kind of was, it just felt more like the Templars were a co-star at best as this seemed to focus far more on what was happening around them rather than what they were doing themselves for large parts of it.

I was also a tad annoyed right from the word go as the author states how he has changed certain names, but not others, adopted English names for certain places yet left others French and then goes on to say how he knows this will annoy people and make it unreadable to some. Unreadable it wasn’t, but annoying it certainly was. At times, especially where Jacques de Molay was concerned (changing his name to James) just felt insulting to the reader. it obviously wasn’t intended that way, something clearly stated in his preface, but I just felt as though I couldn’t be trusted to understand a French name as opposed to an English on. However, if you have nearly no knowledge of the time period, this shouldn’t bother you too much.

Other than that, the book was thoroughly enjoyable, albeit a bit name/date heavy in places. That wasn’t a massive problem, but it did feel more like bullet points thrown together to make a paragraph in some places. It may well have worked a tad better as a written book than the audio book version I went for.

I found myself engaged throughout and, despite the fifteen hour running time, worked my way through it in four or five days, so none of the complaints raised were enough to keep my interest down. I found myself liking it far more at the beginning and near the end. Dan starts off by describing the founding of the Knights Templar, how the brothers lived, their doctrines etc … and ended up with their disbanding and how each of their main surviving members faired when the order was broken up. So you see the rise, you see the spectacular fall … but everything in the middle was more or less lost in the shuffle of the history of the time period.

That sounds a bit of a dumb thing to say as most people will think ‘but they were in the Holy Land, so it’s only natural’. They also had offices in the western world that went largely unmentioned for the most part. So, although we get a heavy Holy Land Templar representation, we get next to nothing of the rest who are serving the order elsewhere.

It’s that lack of Templars as a constant/other areas than the Holy Land, that made me feel it was worth four rather than five stars. I’m well aware that, to better understand the order and how they grow over time, you need to understand the time and the things occurring in said time, but I just felt more emphasis was put on the surrounding events for most of this than actually focussing heavily on the Templars themselves.

Still, if you have an interest in the Templars, or the wars fought in the Holy Land near the beginning of the second millennium, this is certainly worth picking up. The epilogue, where Dan addresses the conspiracy theories of Templars surviving to this day was also an interesting read.

As a narrator, Dan was wonderful. I have seen many of the shows he’s presented/co-presented so I know how talented an orator he is. He does a great job of bringing you in and making you feel like you’re keeping up throughout. Please note that I have seen other reviews saying that, for your average Joe who doesn’t know much about the time, this was hard to follow. So I can only speak as to my experience stemming from a moderate to good understanding of the time period.

7 thoughts on “The Templars by Dan Jones – An Audio Book Review

  1. I find it incredibly painful and worrying when people decide to change names of things when it’s not to protect the identy of someone. It just creates this problematic element where westerners don’t make the effort to properly engage with someone else name.

    To change places is a bit more on the fence. I think that due to time periods moving on place names change so referencing that something is different would be more valuable. Why do we allow ourselves to call it Constantinople in reference to the time period instead of calling it Istanbul?

    I think when you chose to make that choice then consistency is key so I agree it must have been annoying for you.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yea, place names wouldn’t be an issue if they were constant. But there was a mix with those as well.

      I’m a puritan who just prefers a place to be called what it was during the time period referenced. I prefer historians who say ‘Constantinople, modern day Istanbul’ so people know from then on where it is.

      Changing a person’s name just feels like disrespecting the person’s memory to me. I’m a strange one in that regard. I also feel changing a French name to an English one has two issues:

      1, people new to the info may learn it wrong and just never know any better.

      2, when dealing with actual people of certain nationalities they’ll wonder why they aren’t using English names. It adds a very passive ‘we are dominant’ layer to someone’s way of thinking.

      I remember a football pundit did it once and another called him up on it as a matter of respect. If football knows better, academics should too.

      Like

      1. Yeah, I totally agree with your points on naming because it is the individuals name and identity. I find it very odd that we have research done and then chose to filter it to not teach you everything.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. A thorough and balanced review!! Like you, I prefer proper names to remain in their original but if you are going to anglicise one then, please anglicise them all.
    I suppose it’s only natural to focus on events in the Holy Land, so, I’ll forgive him that 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I know, the events in the Holy Land were a tad more interesting than the older brothers going about their pious duties in France/Germany/England etc … so it was a tad nitpicking.

      Yea, in agreement with being consistent. The preface just made it sound like such a mish mash.

      Liked by 1 person

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