Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Answering review request: "God's Forge"

Patrick Dorsey asked me to read his novel, "God's Forge". It is a dramatization of the night that the Knight Templar headquarters was sacked and the order dissolved. I will examine plot, characters and polish and then assign a grade.

PLOT

The plot's conflict is basically for a group of Templar knights to escape the order's headquarters in Paris when it is sieged by King Philip IV. However, there are other threads: Andre carrying a special package, numerous scenes with the king alone, the string of humiliations suffered by the Templar grandmaster, and a whore's own machinations. Interwoven with all of these is cutbacks to the Fall of Acre to the Saracens. While all of these are interesting enough on their own, mixing them all together is a pain. The main plotline is bloated and bogged down with the minor ones, and the minor ones feel underdeveloped.

This is a dramatization of the historical event in place of an original story. Anyone that knows the basic story of the Templars (Powerful soldiers of God, sacked in one knight, and may or may not have found the Holy Grail and disappeared to somewhere else) will not be surprised by the events taking place. It is an interesting dramatization (not as dry as a straight-forward fact-based historical record, for instance) but a dramatization it remains. I would have liked to focus on the events afterwards.

There are too many coincidences for me to ignore. A couple is realistic because real life is full of chances and accidents. In here there are too many: 1.) A courier with a special something just happens to arrive at the Templar Grand Temple within minutes of King Philip's siege, 2.) One knight plans to leave the temple as soon as his horse gives birth, which happens also within a few minutes of leaving the temple. 3.) A squire drops armor in the small time frame between the start of the siege and before the arrests begin, which is why William has any allies at all. 4.) Out of all of Paris, the Templars stumble upon a blacksmith abusing a whore who leads them to a tavern where 5.) A royal guard captain just happens to share the same room as them. 6.) After avoiding the main force of this royal captain, the Templars stumble into three stranglers who were taking a piss. 7.) When Listette is looking for the Templars, she stumbles into three soldiers she's on bad terms with; just these three out of the entire company that were maimed but not killed by the Templars.

There's an abandoned plot thread about mid-book. The Templars realize the moral and social rot of the city they're posted in and decide to save souls in Christendom before going back to the Holy Land. They determine this is why The Lord allowed them to lose the Holy Land to the Muslims; they need to "get their own house in order first". It's not directly stated if their later actions are tied to this, but given the fact that they are God's Army, it is not out of the question.

Finally, I don't understand why the grandmaster gave up without a fight. If the goal was to distract King Philip then certainly a fight in the front gate would hold attention there and pull forces away from the back. If nothing else, the king wouldn't be thinking about "rounding up fugitives" and instead about "take the citadel!"

The ending is fantastic. As you can tell by now I have problems with the body of the plot but the ending is fantastic. It is a falling action kind of tone, it has closure, and it complies with the historical record while at the same time, not quite as dismal.

CHARACTERS

Characters are diverse. The Templar fugitives are like a microcosms of the Templars themselves. There is William the veteran Knight in Shinning Armor, Andre the na├»ve and noble newbie, Etienne whose just a unforged squire, Odo the Cool Old Guy, the contrasting Francesco with his age and dogmatism and Armande who is here just to wash away his excommunication. You have the full range of experience, idealism/cynicism, and the belief what it means to be part of God's army.

Lisette is a complicated character. She's a street walker and proud of it, but only because her family disowned her for being raped. She tells William she had no choice in terms of profession but when he mentions becoming a nun, she says such a thing wouldn't suit her. Whether or not she knew of this specific nunnery order before or after she became a whore would mean the difference between hypocrisy and a "too far gone" mentality.

There's also an interesting split between the villains. King Philip doesn't appear to have anything against the Templars pre say. He just needs to make "his beloved France solvent again" and the Templars appear to be his best shot. Imbert the head inquisitor, genuinely believes that he is an instrument of God in weeding out corruption and that the Templars, as an organization, are corrupt. He is willing to make exceptions for individual members, provided they confess and seek reconciliation, of course. Lower down the chain, you have officers motivated by a variety of selfish things: money, lust, success, recognition etc.

As you can see, I am much more favorable to the character than I am to the plot itself. The individual scenes are better: well written, character driven, etc. The problem is the larger picture.

POLISH

I spotted a couple spelling errors. It's nothing major.
If there's a reason for the inclusion of the Acre plotline, after the action prologue, I don't see it.
There's some good history stuff in here and a glossary of references so that's nice for history buffs like me.

Trickster Eric Novels gives "God's Forge" a C+

Click here for the next book review (which was not a request): Journey to the West
Click here for the previous review (Also not a request): Young Miss Holmes casebook 1-2

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