A tale of swords and superstitions, of passion and deception, of political machinations and posturing, Revenge of the Knights Templar is an exceptional debut novel by talented author Adriana Girolami.
This story has been on my to read list for most of 2014. Now, that I have finally completed reading it, I can say that the wait was worth it.
The ability of an author to transport the reader to a different time and place, and do it convincingly, is a task that perhaps only the most seasoned of authors would attempt. So it makes this story all the more remarkable that it sets itself up brilliantly, with the kind of prose I wish I could use in my writing.
After the initial few chapters, where most if not all of the main characters are introduced, the pace picks up and doesn't let go. In fact, I had to stop myself from finishing the novel too quickly.
It is a thoroughly entertaining and thrilling read, set in the 1480s where, as always, who ever wields power can do so with a silken rose or an iron fist.
Our heroine, Polyxena, is destined to become a duchess, but not in the way she envisaged. Her love, the Duke Arsenio is brutally cast aside in a battle of wills and swords, seeing the repugnant Duke of Saxe-Hanover seizing power, with Polyxena, seemingly hapless to play anything but the dutiful wife.
Things can't go on like this forever, and with the tyrant becoming ever more tyrannical (as they do!) the evil Duke begins to make mistakes...the biggest of which seem his superstitions. The fate of one cat in the story was a pivotal moment for me.
Polyxena, as befits a great heroine, is anything but a housemaid and often voices her displeasure at the Duke's actions - especially with his joy at the arrangement of so many executions of his enemies. Polyxena, understandably, is horrified. One of the condemned is her new love, Duccio.
The story has a great premise, but actually backs this up with superb execution. The characters are believeable, you feel hatred for the evil Duke, love and hope for the beautiful and intelligent Polyxena. I even found my distaste of Flavia coming around to better thoughts later on. Such is this beautifully woven tale.
The cover, though stunning, should not hide the fact that the sword fights are realistic in their description, and Miss Girolami places you as if you wielded the sword yourself! I was truly swept into the action of this story, which I will say is as well written as any part of the Lord of the Rings.
The author's wordcraft is exciting and perfectly describes each scene. The characters are superbly drawn, and the detail of her vision leaves nothing to chance. You, dear reader, are transported to 1480s Europe, and can do nothing about it!
This story is a historical epic, a romance, a thriller, a mystery and is full of great lines, written beautifully and without any hint of pretence.
It's not without humour, with great lines such as:
"The erotic spectacle stimulated the drunken crowd, who quickly joined the royal pair in a sexually driven bacchanal. An orgiastic took over the room while everybody rubbed and caressed anything that wasn't theirs."
And stark, great authoritarian lines such as:-
"A river of blood will cleanse you of audacity!"
"It's easy to learn cruelty when you live with evil."
Truly, I can't wait to read this book again. It's been by far one of my favourite reads of 2014, and one can only wait for Miss Girolami's next book. As for Revenge of the Knights Templar, I thoroughly recommend you read it. Now.