As an orphan, Tristan never dreamed he would travel the world or discover the truth about his past. But all that changes when the Knights Templar ride through the abbey on their way to battle. Suddenly, Tristan finds himself as a squire to one of the most respected knights. While exciting, it is also dangerous, as Tristan gets caught between rival knights desperate for power and entrusted with the most sacred relicathe Holy Grail. With the help of a young archer and a deadly warrior, can Tristan safely bring the Holy Grail back to England? Or will he succumb to the dangers of the evil men who follow in its wake? (Publisher's comments from Powell's Books)
The Youngest Templar: Keeper of the Grail is the first book in a series by Michael P. Spradlin that follows fifteen-year-old Tristan as he becomes a squire for Sir Thomas, a Knights Templar. The book is a 2011 Truman nominee, one of the Missouri Association of School Librarian’s award given to books that appeal to grades six through eight.
I found the Keeper of the Grail an engrossing adventure. Spradlin weaves authentic bits and pieces of the history of the Crusades into the story, placing Tristan in the middle of the capture and recapture of the city of Acre, by Saladin himself. Tristan is sent from Acre just as the city falls to the Saracens. Entrusted with the task of taking the Holy Grail to Scotland and the Church of the Holy Redeemer, Tristan embarks on the quest to save one of the most important relics of Christendom; a very tall task for a young boy.
Tristan is a very dynamic character. He is hardworking, courageous, and compassionate. His loyalty to the Templar Knights is unfailing despite his inexperience and naiveness. Reluctant to leave Sir Thomas, he obeys the order to take the Holy Grail. Traveling only at night he meets up with Robard Hode, a King’s Archer who after serving his conscription is also on his way to England. Together they make their way to the city Tyre. They also meet up with Maryam, an Al Hashshashin assassin injured by Hode after she and other assassins attack. Tristan unable to allow Hode to kill her, takes her along and the three join forces.
The Keeper of the Grail is fraught with battles and skirmishes as well as intrigued. Spradlin, foreshadows throughout the book that Tristan’s identity is important, which makes me curious to find out more. The book’s cliff hanger ending was peevish, but definitely ensures that I will be picking up book two in the very near future.
I believe that Keeper of the Grail is a book that will especially appeal to middle school boys. The adventure and the various battle scenes are exciting and make this book a fast read. I also love the setting and believe that for some middle school readers the book might even encourage a desire to learn more about the Crusades and the Knights Templar.