It's 1191. A young boy named Tristan, who has been brought up in a monastery and who has no idea who his parents were, is taken on as a squire by a Templar knight, and before long he's met King Richard and made a powerful enemy, one who seems to know the secret of Tristan's birth. Tristan isn't with the Templars long. Soon he's escaping Acre with the holiest relic of them all: the grail, which he has promised to take to England.
It's a tough trip, but Tristan falls in with some entertaining companions, a skilled young archer named Robard Horde and a beautiful young Muslim assassin named Maryam. There's lots of action in this novel that's aimed at readers in about the fifth through the eighth grades. Lots of violence, too, and hair's-breadth escapes aplenty. The ending is a cliffhanger in the classic tradition.
While reading the book, I was reminded a little of a very old favorite of mine, Howard Pyle's Men of Iron. Great stuff.
I do have two complaints of the grouchy old English teacher sort. One is the hissing of the unhissable ("Hold him!" I hissed.) and the other is a sentence that the copy editor should have spotted ("After many hours in the saddle the sun moved lower in the western sky"). They certainly won't keep me from reading the second book in the series, The Youngest Templar: Trail of Fate, which should be out next month.