Templar, by Jordan Mechner, illustrated by LeUyen Pham and Alex Puvilland (First Second, Juley 2013, 408 pages) is an utterly stunning, gripping, heart-breaking graphic novel that tells of the dissolution of the Knights Templar in the early 14th century, and the torture and execution of its members.
It's the story of three members of the order who escape, discover the location of the Templars' vast treasure (the whole reason why the French king wanted the order dissolved--he was deeply in debt to the Templars), and hatch a daring scheme to recover it from out of the heart of Paris. It's the story of the love between one of these men and the noblewoman he left behind when he went off to the crusades (she plays an active role in things, despite his attempts to keep her "safe")...and it's a story that knocked the socks off me.
I just went and read what other people had to say about it....and thought it might be worth adding that other reviews give more import to the swash-buckling action-filled fun of the three daring dudes and their great treasure heist. Huh. I was all focused on the doom, betrayal, loyalties clung too in the face of hopeless odds, human frailty, etc. In fact, I must confess I kind of went very quickly through the actual heist because of emotional anxiousness.
Recommended without reservation to older teen and grown-up fans of graphic novels and historical fiction. In addition to the adjectives used above, I can in all honesty add powerful, beautifully illustrated, memorable, educational, etc.
Recommended, with reservations, for younger teens. The reservations are as follows:
--the story is complicated, and it's never stated that the whole reason the Templars were disbanded wasn't because anyone really thought they were heretics, but because the Crusades were over, the Templars hadn't won, and they were just sitting around being incredibly rich--much richer than the King of France. My own younger teen reader didn't get this. I'm not sure he understood either how torture can make a person "confess" to things they didn't do.
--there's torture, violence (including innocent people being burned at the stake), and a bit of "adult content," though not graphically so.
Incidentally, Jordan Mechner is the creator of Prince of Persia, and Book 1 of Templar was first published independently as Solomon's Thieves.
disclaimer: review copy received from the publisher