by Robyn Young
Hodder & Stoughton, HK$115
Robyn Young's first novel Brethren was 2006's best-selling debut. An epic yarn in every sense of the phrase, it was vast, enjoyable and old-fashioned fun. It was a historical thriller like authors used to write - and which Bernard Cornwell and Ken Follett still do. Set on a vividly realised 13th-century globe, it told the story of Will Campbell, a sort of medieval Luke Skywalker. Having been raised in the Order of the Knights Templar, Will fell in love and learned how to fight, before going on a crusade to battle Sultan Baybars Bundukdari (or Darth Vader). The sequel, Crusade, gives just as much pleasure. The bloody battles of Brethren have resulted in uneasy truces across the Middle East. Will Campbell and his fellow knights are stationed in Acre, negotiating the fragile peace between Christians and Muslims. The calm is threatened from without by a deal between the English King Edward and the Pope, and from within by a cabal of western merchants dealing in arms and slaves. Young writes with verve and assurance, whether about Will's heroic exploits or the political struggle afflicting Baybars in Egypt.