on January 24, 2006
I got this book based on the premise and was initially engaged. Early on, the action moved briskly enough that I was willing to overlook its faults: The prose was flowery and cliched, the characters a little one-dimensional. Think of the genre featuring the 'brilliant, beautiful headstrong ' and you've got it down pat.
Not surprisingly, there's also the 'gifted-but-haunted-by-past-demons' FBI agent' and the associated cast of stock characters.
Of course, nobody acts remotely like a real person and a series of unrealistic actions mixed with coincidences keep them all moving toward the inevitable conclusion.
That said, I initially enjoyed it in spite of it faults and found it well paced. Eventually, though, it bogs down in a love story and its need to connect the dots with lengthy historical backstory.
I wish I'd liked it better...
I won't bother re-hashing the story line, as you can read the summary in the publishing reviews. This is Khoury's first novel, and it's a pretty good entry effort. You can see that he's an experienced storyteller (screenwriting) from the pacing, settings and well-described visuals.
His opening scene is gripping, and the interplay from modern times to the Crusader era is very well done. I really enjoyed the archeological aspects of this book, and thought their exposition was set forth in an interesting and engaging manner.
The comparisons to "The Da Vinci Code" are going to be inevitable, I think. I'll preface by saying I didn't like Brown's book and found his attacks on Christianity muddled, boring and implausible, as well as offensive.
That having been said, there's a point in this book (at about page 300 in the hard cover version) where you'll roll your eyes and think, "Oh, no, here we go again". I know I did. Well, don't. Give the book a chance. The last half page of the book clears things up well, at least in my estimation.
So, you ask, why only three stars? Well, it was very subjective, and may not be an issue for some readers, but I found the book didn't really engage me on an emotional level. I found the protagonists (Tess and Reilly) to be simple (as opposed to complex and fully fleshed-out) characters, as were the two antagonists (whom I won't name in the interest of not revealing the plot line). The modern-day storyline (the majority of the book) was a fairly straightforward adventure story, and on that level works well. Surprisingly, the real treat of the book was the interwoven Crusader-era story, which I found to be better visualized than the rest of the book, with more fully realized characterization.
I don't think you'll be disappointed if you buy this book. I certainly am glad I read it, and look forward to more from Khoury as his skills develop.
on January 28, 2007
Right off, it's just the action and some cleverness in constructing a twisting plot that earned this book 2 stars. But that goodness is really the exception.
This book is a lamentable mess.
First, Khoury ought to stick to screenplays. Much of the writing is reminiscent of a novelization of an action movie, and some of that done well. But much of it doesn't work for a novel.
When you write a movie, a few coincidences thrown at you over a couple hours are okay, because you have to catapult your way to the end in that short time. But if a helicopter, ship, huge storm, piece of rebar, or whatever, is at hand in a novel, there better be a dang good reason for it being there. Stuff just shows up in this novel. I won't spoil where or how, but if you bother to read this mess, you'll see it.
Khoury also goes on horrid flights of exposition and tries to wedge it in conversation. Nobody even remotely talks like this, unless it's in a college lecture room.
The saddest part is he seems to take a great joy in dismantling the faith of one of the protagonists. Really, the book is a stilted excuse to carry on a rancid anti-Christian screed. If you get well into the book, and you need to get it done, you can simply skip chapters 66 through 71 and remember these words: Khoury thinks Christianity is all based on a lie, and the FBI agent gets on a helicopter with the monsignor.
I just saved you 30 minutes.
Khoury also gets Dan Brown disease when he pretends that it's credible enough for fiction to call some of his ideas "accepted facts." It's okay to make up facts for a fiction story, but when you're trying to base a story on historical speculation and fact, you've got to make it a little bit sensible. If you don't, and someone who actually knows something about what you're writing reads it, you'll lose the reader completely.
Khoury comes off as a semi-educated, poorly informed conspiracy nut when he starts in on his version of church history. He rattles off "facts" regarding the development of the New Testament that are provably false, not just differences in speculation among scholars, but simply wrong, from the gospels to the Council of Nice.
Heck, he even kills astronaut James Irwin nine years early and quite incorrectly.
I'll let you find that one for yourself.
Okay, Khoury hates Christians and Christianity, and especially the Catholic Church. His characterization of what he takes as a "faithful follower" of Catholicism is pathetic and ill-informed. His anti-Christian screed, as mentioned above, is far more inept than others I have seen on the Internet and Usenet. I think he tried to find a way to respect those of faith who might read his book, but it comes off horribly condescending, and not in a way you might expect in an academic setting. It is more like the boor we all know who isn't smart enough to realize what he doesn't know, thinks he knows everything, and is surprised when thinking people around him show him the disdain he's earned, so he chalks it up to a need to grow up and get up to his level.
Truly, Khoury ought to go find Dan Brown and kiss his feet, because without the DaVinci Code, this tripe would never have been published.
on February 24, 2006
A recent review called this book "another Da Vincy Code knock-off". I utterly disagree. It is simply another take on a currently popular topic (think about it - the premise of The Da Vinci Code, for example, is almost identical to what has been described in a number of earlier novels, but nobody complained about that - and there is actually a great German book called 'Das Jesus Video' by Andreas Eschbach, which I hope will be available in English soon, as it is truly a great novel, with yet another spin on everything...).
I enjoyed "The Last Templar" from beginning to end. I've always been partial to novels spanning several centuries, and the ideas put forth in this novel are rather intriguing, especially considering what has been happening in our world recently. The Templars have long fanned the imaginations of many, and there is still a lot of mystery and secrecy which makes their history so interesting. Khoury cleverly weaves known facts, speculations, opinions together with his personal analysis and a lot of imagination.
on December 12, 2007
I would have never bought this book for myself, since I always scan the Amazon and other reviews before making a purchase, and the reviews are pretty accurately all bad for this book.
However, I received the book as a gift from someone who I know would be very embarrassed if she knew the context of the book she had given me.
The other reviewers have pretty much nailed the flaws of the book, hollow characters, unrealistic situations, historical inaccuracies, and his rant against all religions with Christianity particularly targeted.
You can definitely tell this guy is used to writing for the movies. Some of the situations he puts the characters in might work on the big screen in a 90 minute movie, but you just can't pull off the same unbelievable stunts in a book without a lot more detail and explanation. The "Bruce Willis" scenes at least do keep the story moving in parts of the book, but there is a big lull near the middle of the book where most of the writing is used to bash organized religion, and blame it for all the worlds problems.........pretty boring.
Even though the book is fiction it is based on historical events. The author re-writes history to fit his point of view and evidently to try to spice up the story. The problem is that each time you run across a historical discrepancy it stalls the whole story, and leaves the reader scratching their heads or researching to find the truth. Take for example in the book where James Irwin is said to have died on Mount Ararat in his second attempt to locate Noah's Arch. The author could have left this statement out and it would not have changed the story at all. This lie contributed nothing to the story, so why change history with a lie? James Irwin died in Colorado from a heart attack nearly 10 years after his last visit to Mount Ararat. The whole story is inundated with similar discrepancies that will drive an educated reader insane.
The book is obviously trying to ride on the successful trail of Dan Brown's "The Da Vinci Code", but falls way short of that goal.
This book is like the manuscript that the characters so desperately seek.........best left on the shelf.
on January 21, 2006
Like the DaVinci Code, this a fast-paced read that you won't want to put down. It's no surprise that Khoury is also an accomplished screenwriter. As you read this book, you can "watch" the film play out in your mind's eye. But that's where the similarity ends. In between the scenes of a rapidly unfolding crime story set in modern day Manhatten, Khoury's book seemlessly creates the time and space to dig deeper. In it, Khoury locks on to the enigmatic legend of the Templars with an historian's precision. He then meticulously peels away the layers in a way that the other book cannot. In The Last Templar, Khoury strives to engage and educate the reader - to welcome them in to a personal passion, about which he has clearly done his homework. But he does so without pontificating an agenda. Instead, he lets the reader in on a great secret, and asks the reader to draw his own conclusions. I very much enjoyed this first novel of Khoury's, and I look forward to the next.
on January 24, 2006
After reading and loving the Da Vinci Code months ago, this book is so welcome. I read it over the weekend and couldn't put it down. It was more satisfying and even more enjoyable. The last part of Dan Brown's book kind of disappointed me, whereas this one just keeps going and gets bigger and more interesting. And that final twist was just awesome.
I loved the historic chapters set in the time of the crusaders and the fall of the templars, they were so epic and moving I wanted to read that story in a book of its own. And while the main story gripped me right from that great opening scene at the museum, what made this book really special for me was that although it's this huge adventure, it felt very real and credible and human. The moments when the characters are discussing religion and the history of the church and the bible were really interesting, it's rare to come across a thriller that has so much to say. It really made me think and it inspired me so positively. Tess and Reilly's conflicting opinions and the way they help each other grow and find each other was a lovely touch.
In the interviews with the author that I read on the book's website and on bookreporter.com, it seems Khoury first wrote it as a screenplay ten years ago and got a big book offer which he turned down when he found out the publishers wanted to "lose the religion" and turn it into a hunt for gold. I'm glad he did, I loved this book and can't recommend it enough.
on January 23, 2006
Having read both the Da Vinci Code and The Last Templar, I think that both books are similar. While Brown unabashedly takes his "shots" at the Catholic Church, Khoury also seems to be of the same mold...Until you really look at the words as you read them. While Brown never capitalized the pronouns used for God and Christ, Khoury does. When addressing the topic of Jesus using pronouns you see "The bible states that He was resurrected" and "We believe that His Resurrection started a movement." Finally, just when you think that Khoury is taking his own "shots" at the Church, the epilogue of the book makes clear he is doing no such thing.
Why only 3 stars? Two reasons...First, it is a Da Vinci Code knock off; while it is well written, it does have the same format and story outline dealing with the Knights Templar as Dan Brown's book. Second, I don't feel that the subplot of the love blossoming between Agent Reilly and Tess added anything to the story. To me it was only a distraction.
on March 11, 2006
What an excellent first novel from Raymond Khourri. While The Last Templar was recommended by a friend whose judgement I trust, I was still slightly sceptical before I started the novel. How wrong I was! This is an excellent, well written, researched and engrossing novel that moves at a fast pace and is full of intrigue and plot twists. I very much enjoyed Khourri's use of a historical tale meandering throughout the book which brought the story to life and gave the novel character and context.
I read the book in a couple of days and have since passed it to my wife who also enjoyed it and has turned it over to our daughter who has also polished it off quickly. We have all enjoyed it and can certainly recommend the book for readers of all ages!
Unlike some reviewers I think this book will be liked more by the intelligent readers, as well as readers looking for a good adventure. I think Raymond Khoury did a fine job for a first novel. You'll get action as well as a thought provoking story.
Dan Brown readers will like it, though its not quite at the same level as 'The DaVinci Code'.
"...religion is a phenomenal weapon, even today. It can reach into the hearts of men and make them do all kinds of unimaginable things."
"It has served us well, this myth of Christ"
--Pope Leo X, 16th Century