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
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.