Review Tuesday: The Templar Legacy by Steve Berry

The Templar Legacy by Steve Berry is book one in his Cotton Malone series. The series was recommended to me by a coworker who knew that I loved history and to read. I’m so glad that I gave this book a try because this series is right up my alley – and there are at least 13 books so far! I always love when you find a new series that you love and that has numerous books. It can be like finding an oasis in the middle of a dry book dessert.

From Goodreads:

The ancient order of the Knights Templar possessed untold wealth and absolute power over kings and popes . . . until the Inquisition, when they were wiped from the face of the earth, their hidden riches lost. But now two forces vying for the treasure have learned that it is not at all what they thought it was–and its true nature could change the modern world.

Cotton Malone, one-time top operative for the U.S. Justice Department, is enjoying his quiet new life as an antiquarian book dealer in Copenhagen when an unexpected call to action reawakens his hair-trigger instincts–and plunges him back into the cloak-and-dagger world he thought he’d left behind.

It begins with a violent robbery attempt on Cotton’s former supervisor, Stephanie Nelle, who’s far from home on a mission that has nothing to do with national security. Armed with vital clues to a series of centuries-old puzzles scattered across Europe, she means to crack a mystery that has tantalized scholars and fortune-hunters through the ages by finding the legendary cache of wealth and forbidden knowledge thought to have been lost forever when the order of the Knights Templar was exterminated in the fourteenth century. But she’s not alone. Competing for the historic prize–and desperate for the crucial information Stephanie possesses–is Raymond de Roquefort, a shadowy zealot with an army of assassins at his command.

Welcome or not, Cotton seeks to even the odds in the perilous race. But the more he learns about the ancient conspiracy surrounding the Knights Templar, the more he realizes that even more than lives are at stake. At the end of a lethal game of conquest, rife with intrigue, treachery, and craven lust for power, lies a shattering discovery that could rock the civilized world–and, in the wrong hands, bring it to its knees.

Now, there have been numerous books published about the Knights Templar and their lost treasure. It’s a fascinating topic that has entertained conspiracy theorists and historians for centuries. The most recently runaway famous tale of the treasure is of course Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code. The Templar Legacy is a smarter, more in depth, story than The Da Vinci Code. Oh yes, I said it. If you love history, conspiracy/treasure hunts, and adventure this is definitely a book for you.

This book is plot driven. There isn’t really character development – the characters are who they are. The plot thought is intense, and dense. It is fairly easy to follow along, but you do have to pause every once in awhile and connect the clues in your head – or at least I found that I had to – but I liked that. I liked that I had to think about how everything was connected, and about which character and side (there are definitely sides in this book) knows what, and doesn’t know something else. It was just lovely storytelling.

Cotton is the best of both worlds by being a book lover as well as an action man. He knows how to handle himself in risky situations, and his mind is razor sharp. He’s slightly stereotypical in that he’s a divorced man and has no real interest in any kind of family life (other than a son that he sees over the summer), but he isn’t an alcoholic, which I loved. I always find a lot of single male characters who are some kind of detective (even in the loosest sense of the word) are. So that was a bit of fresh air. I think that all of the other characters in this story are really only here for this book, I’m not assuming that I’ll see much of them again. But, that’s just how these series books go.

I have two complaints about this book.

  1. For Cotton being an action man, there are a couple of times where he’s just stupid and he makes what seem to be basic mistakes that I don’t think that he should have made, or that a character with his background would have made.
  2. Some scenes just go on WAY too long because it shifts perspective back and forth while people are shooting at each other. It would be a great action movie because you would know when to switch cameras to focus on another person, but in the middle of reading it, it just bogs the flow down I felt.

Overall, it was great, enjoyable, smart read that blends history and fiction. I thoroughly enjoyed it and I can’t wait to keep reading the series.

Review Tuesday: The Girl From the Savoy by Hazel Gaynor

The Girl From the Savoy by Hazel Gaynor is the first book that my newly created book club read for the month of June. One of my best friends Tori suggested that we start a book club, and since I’ve never been in one (which is weird now that I think about it) I thought it was a great idea. Tori picked the book for the month of June.

I will admit that if Tori hadn’t picked this book, I never would have read it on my own. As much as I love history, I’m not big on historical fiction – especially ones that are sent around WWI or WWII. That being said, I really enjoyed this book.

girl from the savoyFrom Goodreads:

Sometimes life gives you cotton stockings. Sometimes it gives you a Chanel gown …

Dolly Lane is a dreamer; a downtrodden maid who longs to dance on the London stage, but her life has been fractured by the Great War. Memories of the soldier she loved, of secret shame and profound loss, by turns pull her back and spur her on to make a better life.

When she finds employment as a chambermaid at London’s grandest hotel, The Savoy, Dolly takes a step closer to the glittering lives of the Bright Young Things who thrive on champagne, jazz and rebellion. Right now, she must exist on the fringes of power, wealth and glamor—she must remain invisible and unimportant.

But her fortunes take an unexpected turn when she responds to a struggling songwriter’s advertisement for a ‘muse’ and finds herself thrust into London’s exhilarating theatre scene and into the lives of celebrated actress, Loretta May, and her brother, Perry. Loretta and Perry may have the life Dolly aspires to, but they too are searching for something.

Now, at the precipice of the life she has and the one she longs for, the girl from The Savoy must make difficult choices: between two men; between two classes, between everything she knows and everything she dreams of. A brighter future is tantalizingly close—but can a girl like Dolly ever truly leave her past behind?

The book starts off in the early 1920s with our main character Dorothy (Dolly for short) Lane, who is determined to make it onto the stage in live theatre. She wants to be a star. The only problem or major hinderance to this is that she is “just” a maid. Each chapter alternates between characters’ perspectives – Dolly, Loretta and Teddy. Dolly the maid, Loretta the star and Teddy the war veteran.

I found that the book started strong and then started to drag for the first 200 pages. It got a little repetitive with Dolly’s struggles of being a maid, not having a lot of money, and people telling her that she’ll never amount to anything. By contrast the last 200 pages flew by. The pace picked up, things started happening for Dolly that pushed her forward to realize her dreams, and other pieces of other puzzles started to fall into place.

Since this book is set fairly recently after WWI each character in this book has personal tragedy that they have to carry with them – be it people they’ve lost, things they suffered through etc. With Dolly’s tragedies (and there are many) they are hinted at and then later explained as the book continues. She has a memory, or a wisp of a thought and it gives the reader a little glimpse, a hint of what happened, but you have to read more to find out. A very nice tactic used by the author.

One of my favourite lines from the book is by Teddy who says:

“It’s the flaws that give things character, Mrs. Lane. Everyone talks about the teapot that dribbles. Nobody talks about the teapot that pours perfectly. If I were a teapot, I know which I’d rather be.”

Overall, this was a very good book, with memorable characters that you just truly want to succeed because they have all suffered greatly at some point. I would recommend it to anyone.