by Dan Jones (Goodreads Author)
Wow. What a book.
I’ve been a fan of Dan Jones’ history books since listening to his fantastic novels on the Plantagenets and the Wars of the Roses, though I was introduced to him through Netflix’s acquisition of his documentary series entitled Secrets of Great British Castles. Jones has a way of telling you fact-laden history as if it’s nothing more than a story — I suppose, there’s an argument that, yes, anything is a story, but too often I find that history and facts are just given as is and, well, I tend to find that so dry that my attention runs away, rarely to return in any significant manner.
But this book is truly fantastic, and it doesn’t hurt that Jones narrates the audiobook version himself. This is a story that could have easily fallen into repetition and just a recitation of facts, but Jones has found a way to tell a relatively chronological tale of, as the subtitle says, “The Rise and Spectacular Fall” of the Templars.
I think what I appreciate most, beyond Jones’ dedication to telling the story not only of what happened, but how it was perceived by the outside world as well as a great deal of context, is that he uses the epilogue to discuss the romanticization and mythologization of the Templars, dating back even to their own lifetime. Most of this is information with which I was shallowly aware — I’d sort of figured that the Templars’ link to the Holy Grail was based more in fiction than fact — but it was great to have Jones go from Parzival to present day, discussing the various ways in which the Templars were made into something more/different than what they actually were. He does not write it as a dragging of things like, say, Da Vinci Code, Assassin’s Creed, Ivanhoe,or Kingdom of Heaven (to name a few), but as a way of showing how an organization like the Templars, who in their lifetime maintained a level of secrecy for practical reasons that, ultimately, came back to cost them dearly, are ripe for both romanticization and mythologization.
I encourage anyone who’s got even the scantest interest in who the Templars were, from their foundings to their “spectacular” fall, to pick up this book and settle in for a tale of more than one Crusade, a pretty dickish French king (lookin’ at you, Philip IV), and a whole of fact that’s, for the most part, even more incredible than fiction.