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Templar Hardcover – July 9, 2013
The Amazon Book Review
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*Starred Review* The creative trio of Mechner, Pham, and Puvilland got their high-adventure story rolling with Solomon’s Thieves (2010). What wasn’t apparent in that first volume of the planned trilogy was how deeply into historically weighty territory the story would cut. Happily, the whole story has been collapsed into one hearty, hefty tome that includes the already published Solomon’s Thieves and the rest of the tale. The historical framework concerns the fall of the Knights Templar after the king of France, with the insidious councilor Nogaret tugging his ear, hurls accusations of sodomy, blasphemy, and worse at the order. The knights are imprisoned and put on trial before a flimsy commission of bishops, but what of the fabled horde of treasure they brought back from the Crusades? A band of Templars-in-hiding race against Nogaret’s machinations and brutal manipulations to save the treasure and maybe even the good name of their order. But, as anyone versed in the history of Jacques de Molay, the last grand master, will know, even the pope, trapped in a political vise, is unable to save the holy knights from doom. The torture the men are put to, the lies they are broken by, and their fate at the stake constitutes a searing, sobering counterweight to the story’s high-wire derring-do and jovial camaraderie. Add to all that a nifty Ocean’s Eleven–style caper, outstanding artwork, and enough romance to get the heart invested, and you have an epic adventure comic for the ages. --Ian Chipman
“With Templar, Jordan Mechner combines true flair for classic adventure with a firm grasp of medieval history, for an unforgettable tale of love, gold and glory. And Pham and Puvilland bring their strong individual style to bear on 14th century France with gorgeous art that is both clean and lush at the same time. Put them together and you've got yourself a winner. Michael Curtiz should have been so lucky.” ―David Benioff and D.B. Weiss, creators of HBO's "Game of Thrones"
“The creative trio of Mechner, Pham, and Puvilland got their high-adventure story rolling with Solomon's Thieves (2010). What wasn't apparent in that first volume of the planned trilogy was how deeply into historically weighty territory the story would cut . . . [That history] constitutes a searing, sobering counterweight to the story's high-wire derring-do and jovial camaraderie. Add to all that a nifty Ocean's Eleven–style caper, outstanding artwork, and enough romance to get the heart invested, and you have an epic adventure comic for the ages.” ―Booklist (starred review)
“A wholly engaging and entertaining mix of medieval history, political intrigue, and cinematic thrills in a swashbuckling heist adventure . . . Mechner's (Prince of Persia) tight plot never misses a beat, and the book is a definite page-turner. His passion for the subject is reflected in the story's adherence to actual events and settings, ably visualized by husband-and-wife illustrators Pham and Puvilland, whose art lends itself well to the stirring narrative. It's a rollicking good time and a real gem of a book, well worth the wait and price.” ―Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“A 480-page graphic novel and one of the most perfect representations of what the term means . . . The enormous work has a strong protagonist with complex and even conflicting goals, a wealth of secondary characters with their own goals and stories, and a rich background in a troubled world. It even comes with a selected bibliography and a discussion of further reading. Not many other graphic novels go to that length. Mechner gives a human face to one of the most whispered-about and objectified organizations in Western history: the Knights Templar.” ―Jeff Provine, BlogCritics.org
“Templar is a beautifully executed historical thriller written by famed game designer Jordan Mechner (who created Prince of Persia) and drawn by Leuyen Pham and Alex Puvilland . . . A classic caper story filled with glorious and horrible swordfights, skullduggery, torture, romance, banditry, piety, bravery and treachery. I came to this not knowing much about the Templars and caring about them even less, but found that once I picked the (massive) book up, I couldn't put it down. This is some great and exciting storytelling.” ―Cory Doctorow (author of Homeland and Little Brother)
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A little back story... About three years ago I picked up a copy of Prince of Persia, the graphic novel. Right next to it on the shelf was a copy of Solomon's Thieves, both by the same creators. I knew of Mechner, yet had not read his writing (heck, I played it if you count him writing code). I ended up enjoying Solomon's Thieves more, and waited for a sequel. And waited, and waited.
Thankfully First Second publishing decided on a birthday present for me, releasing Templar for me to, well, buy for myself.
First Second always amazes me with their releases, but this one deserves special mention. 450+ pages tightly bound in hardcover. Most publishers would have gone cheap, or God forbid paperback. Thank you for the extra effort.
Enough with the outside... how about what's inside the book? Some damn fine writing and art, that's what. I was thinking of a way to classify the story... a tragedy? Comedy? The book equivalent of a buddy film? All of the above? Mechner crafted very human characters with hopes, aspirations, and flaws. Best of all, you cared for them right up the the end. I don't want to spoil much, so it's best to experience it for yourself.
I'll go ahead and say it. I really like Pham's art. Puvilland's color really does her inks justice. Pham designed characters with human traits and had them act out with whimsy. I devoured each panel and was in awe of the detail that I had seen. One of he double page spreads at the end made me gasp. I loved it.
The book was an enjoyable read. Do yourself a favor and pick yourself up a copy. As for me, I hope see see Mechner, Pham, and Puvilland back with a new exciting series soon, but not too soon... the three of you deserve a break.
First of all, the plot asked the characters to resolve a simple problem. But it was a very good "simple problem," and one that required a lot of brain, brawn, and chutzpah on their parts to achieve. It was about fifty pounds of fun watching them do it, and that includes me getting angry at them, getting worried for them, being proud of them, being distrustful of them, and finally, wishing I could have met them.
Secondly, the art constituted a perfectly delicious illusion. There were details aplenty, and each of them got enough attention from the artists to capture my attention as a reader, but none of them were so overdrawn or intricately executed that I felt like I needed a magnifying glass to see everything. The artists gave my eyes plenty to work on -- the market scenes, the building interiors, the streets of Paris -- but left my mind plenty of room to lavish in its own details, which was extraordinarily easy and pleasurable to do. The art so successfully suggested a depth of setting that I felt like I had been on a tour of 14th century Paris... I very much felt like I had walked around to see and hear and smell it. (Note: Read Part Three and you'll see that I'm not kidding when I say "smell.")
Thirdly, I think the book asks a pretty deep question, one which I think anybody living in any time has likely asked him- or herself, which is simply: "What would I do?" I think the book asks it from several directions, and gives a way to consider the question from multiple points of view, and therefore provides a rich opportunity for the reader's mind to wonder and consider and observe who he himself, or she herself, is. These characters are put through some Stuff, yo, and I mean some really Deep Stuff -- and when you read that, when you see these people that you like or dislike, or are proud of, or in some way feel a connection to, you yourself can't help but ask what YOU would do. And personally, I found that comforting, rewarding, and in some cases exhilarating because I understood why the characters behaved as they did, even if I disagreed with their decisions. It sounds goofy, but I feel like I learned something about myself by watching these characters go through their Deep Stuff.
Finally, I will make one micro-spoiler comment. The joking homage to _Raiders of the Lost Ark_ was so good I would have paid double what they asked for this book. I got to that panel and was just shocked at how funny and appropriate that joke was. My face opened up in a huge rictus of mirth, but no laughter came out because inside I was so blown away at how AWESOME the joke was that I felt it was better to let myself be knocked out of my socks than it was to laugh. (But I did laugh later, and I'm still laughing now. Mechner, Pham and Puvilland? This is me leaping to my feet and applauding you for that one.)
If you like historical fiction, deep characterization, and graphic novels, you're going to enjoy this book. Bravo!
Overall, I think I`m not the first one to say that this story would look good on the big screen, but in sad case it does not make it here, like another excellent work of Jordan Mechner - The Last Express game - we have this book.
The art is OK, drawn well enough that it does not take away from the excellent story.
The story is what will grab you and take you for a fun (perhaps sad at times) ride.
I could not put the book down. I had to keep reading it to see what happened next.