Blurb- My dad always says “Don’t be upset by misfortune because you never know what adventures it might bring.”
My adventure started when I accidentally dropped a cannon ball I had been inspecting at Seaboyers’ Emporium (est. 1800) and cracked the corner of an old trunk. The proprietor of the establishment insisted that I buy it. Once I got the beast home I discovered it concealed a flask with a bizarre poem hidden inside. And that was just the beginning…
Genre – Fantasy, Young Adult
My Rating- 3 meows!
My Review- Jean Baptiste is a young Knights Templar who was stranded while his order fought with the King of France, Philip the IV. He has a friend who is a talking raven called Yngvi. On top of some history regarding the Knights Templar, there’s a touch of Norse Mythology, and everything seemed great when I first began reading, but then something kept happening, and I wasn’t able to put my finger on what it was…until the second chapter.
Every other word is would or could. Yngvi could guess that’s where Jean would want him to do whatever. The king would think he had been misled. The cats would go out all night, but they could come back whenever. It isn’t direct. I have read many books, and this always peeves me.
Yngvi guessed that’s where Jean wanted him to do whatever. The king thought he had been misled.
I’m not a writer, but I know what I like. I also dislike sentence fragments, and I dislike beginning sentences with conjunctions. Did this writer not go to school and learn FANBOYS? I don’t know, but with a name like Nadudvari, she may not be a native English speaker, so I didn’t detract any stars from my rating for my own personal peeves.
Any-meow, the story bounced and back forth between Jean, an actual Knights Templar, and Nicky, a young boy who loves his cats. It’s funny because I have recently read another novel that was broken up like this, and I thought it was such a unique thing done only by Dan Brown, but I guess it’s more prevalent than I knew. My issue, though, is that one story, the one of Jean was far more exciting than the story of Nicky and his cats, at least at the beginning, and I found myself wanting to skip one of the Nicky chapters for the Jean chapters.
Obviously, the two stories come together, and then the issue is a non-issue. One has to also consider the fact that this is a young adult fantasy novel, probably for someone around the age of twelve or thirteen, and I…being a little older than that, prefer something a bit more challenging.
All-in-all, though, I found it to be an entertaining and well thought out story. Not my favorite fantasy or young adult novel by far, but a decent read. You can also find someone else’s take below.
I added the other review because I don’t want to spoil anyone’s preconceived notion of Nicky and the Lost Templar. It isn’t a bad book at all. It just boils down, for me, that this is not my cup of coffee.
Anonymous review- I read this book because I’ve always had a fascination with the Knights Templar. I read long ago of how the Templars came to Nova Scotia so when I saw this, even though it is written for the younger set, I wanted to see what it was about.
It’s a really good read. The perspective is from a young boy and I thought it would be fairly normal, but (to my happiness) the book involves smart ravens, a lost treasure, mystery, mysticism and a bunch more.
The author must live in Peggy’s Cove, Nova Scotia, Canada or nearby. The geographical reporting is accurate. I went on Google Earth to see.
The historical aspect is very fascinating and I learned new stuff about the Templars from this book.
I would recommend Nicky and the Lost Templar to any one, though the best age set is teen readers. On top of it all, this story is one of adventure, where Nicky finds not only treasure, but discovers wisdom in his quest. The ending is surprising and this book left me feeling positive. There is also a glossary at the end which is a good source of knowledge. The author wisely realized that kids don’t know the things adults do, and the glossary gets them up to speed. A solidly recommended read from this reviewer.
Excerpt from Nicky and the Lost Templar, a young adult fantasy novel- 1307, northwest Atlantic
It was a rare day without wind on the island. Autumn had been walking among the trees, leaving a riot of red and yellow in her wake. Long stretches of pine, fir and spruce remained green, as did the grass, at least until the first frost. The air smelled deliciously of sea and tree sap. To the north, pewter clouds were gathering, promising snow. To the south, the sun was radiating cheer and warmth, unperturbed by the change of seasons.
A man was standing on the shore with his feet firmly planted on a slab of granite. He had a long dagger strapped to his hip and a knife tucked behind his belt. The leather tunic he wore had extra padding on the left shoulder, giving him an uneven look. His hair had grown long again, as had his beard, and since he was not into braids, he would have to trim both of them soon.
He shielded his eyes and looked intently toward the southeast. If a ship were to enter the bay, it would come from that direction. Today the horizon was empty, which was disappointing. But Jean Baptiste de Saisi was not one to despair. A ship would come next year; he was sure of it. In the meantime he could explore the mainland and map the coastline or add more booby traps at the treasure sites.
The thought of the treasure brought a wry smile to his face.
The king of France had been scheming to get his hands on the fabulous wealth of the Knights Templar for a long time. When their Grand Master received some rather disturbing reports, a decision was made. They would relocate everything somewhere safe, as far away from Paris as possible. But nowhere known was safe. One of the knights, Sinclair, suggested a mysterious land far to the west, and so to the west was where they sailed. It would have to be done in stages, without arousing suspicions. Jean Baptiste had come in the second wave, on a ship that carried an entire library of priceless scrolls.
Gold was easy to hide. It could go underground and even underwater because it did not corrode. Scrolls were a different matter entirely, and these were so ancient and delicate that they had to be handled and preserved with utmost care. At the suggestion of the Order’s alchemist, they were sealed in clay jars filled with mercury. If kept dry, away from fire and earthquakes, they should last for hundreds or even thousands of years.
Jean Baptiste doubted the king of France would be interested in scrolls. He was heavily in debt and needed all the gold he could get. But his hands would close around nothing but air. Jean Baptiste had a foreboding that the vengeful monarch would not take it kindly – not after they had declined his request to become one of them and join the most prestigious and powerful order of all times. They answered to no one but the Pope, who, if the secret reports were true, was slowly becoming the king’s puppet.
They could … what … run? Stay in the west? The proud knights could never face such humiliation. No, they would stand their ground and fight.
Were they fighting at this very moment? Is that why they did not return for him?
He studied the horizon once more and saw nothing but grey sky blurring into one with grey ocean. What a strange fate his was, to become stranded here, so far from home, guardian of a secret treasure. Jean Baptiste sighed. He needed to occupy himself with something or he would go mad. For one, there was the pressing need to survive the oncoming winter.
The wind was picking up, whipping his hair around his face. Jean Baptiste could not make a ship appear, but he could pray for his brothers and the success of their mission. He went down on one knee and bowed his head. His quiet words unrolled like a banner in the relentless wind. Perhaps someone in heaven was listening.
In a nearby fir tree a raven as black as midnight was eavesdropping. It was Yngvi of Clan Rune, who claimed to be descended from the god Odin’s ravens, Hugin and Munin. Yngvi’s grandmother reminded him of his illustrious ancestry on a regular basis. He had no qualms about spying on everyone, including Jean Baptiste. Was it not his duty to see and to report, just like Hugin and Munin had done?
Yngvi knew he could just ask the mysterious man anything he wished to know, but it was far more interesting and challenging to ferret things out. For example, he knew where a certain squirrel had hidden its nuts for the winter – just like he knew where Jean Baptiste and his associates had hidden theirs. The precious hoard, however, was protected and sealed. There could be anything down there, Yngvi mused – magical runes, ancient spells or even echoes of a curse.
They were strange things, words. And, stranger still, Clan Rune knew lots of them. All ravens could speak common raven, of course, but how many could discourse in Old Norse or L’nui’sin? None outside Yngvi’s clan – at least not in this part of the woods. These ravens were special. And Yngvi was further enhancing the clan’s reputation by learning a new language. He struggled with it, but it was only a matter of time before he could speak through his beak “like a born Parisian,” whatever Jean Baptiste had meant by that. He shook himself out of his reverie. It was getting nippy, and he blew on his toes to stay warm.
When Jean Baptiste stood up and brushed off the grass and sticks from his pants, the raven swooped down and circled around him. The sun’s rays made his black feathers shine blue. He beat his wings leisurely to prepare for landing and, slowing down, grabbed for purchase.
“Yngvi, my raven friend!” Jean Baptiste smiled. “That was quite the dramatic entry. You are as quiet as a shadow.”
The raven gave no reply, but the knight could tell he was pleased with the comment.
“I hope you can perch in greater comfort now.”
Jean Baptiste waited for Yngvi to sink his claws into the shoulder pad. They were like knife points, and he bore their scars from earlier encounters.
“Let’s walk. I want to look at the island to the north.”
Yngvi knew it was the one that housed the knights’ treasure. He had made discreet inquiries with some crows farther down the shore, and they had confirmed that the men had been busy in more than one place. This island, however, was the only one near which they had left a guard. It had to be something important. Knowing about it made Yngvi’s beak tingle. He and his cousins had been about to do a reconnaissance when an insufferable eagle decided to move to the island, making it off limits to the ravens. For now.
Presently, he was enjoying the ride on Jean Baptiste’s shoulder. They set out on a narrow path winding among solitary rocks and heath the colour of rust.
“So what is new in Seal Cove?” Jean Baptiste asked. He knew the ravens lived in the forest behind the cove even though they frequented this island as well.
Yngvi sifted through the thousand new things from this morning, such as air currents, temperature and food availability. He chose what Jean Baptiste might find interesting.
“An eagle on the island to the north,” he said levelly.
“How fitting that an eagle should live there! But you are not enthused?” the knight shot him a sideways glance.
Yngvi puffed up his feathers and ground his beak. He thought about how the ravens would have to chase the eagle away from their nests come springtime and how much harder it would be for smaller birds to compete for food. He searched his ever-growing vocabulary for the French word for a bully.
“What do you call a swift, unexpected death from above?” he hazarded.
“A good one,” the knight nodded his head firmly. He believed in a warrior having an honourable end, not one at home in bed. But he had an inkling it was not the same if you were a small furry creature and your last word was squeak.
“Does the eagle make you worried, Yngvi?”
“Handsome, fast, arrogant, aloof … What do you call that?” the raven answered with a question.
“A born leader,” Jean Baptiste answered. “Why, this eagle is a king of all birds.” He made an all-encompassing gesture with his free hand.
Yngvi’s raspy voice rose by an octave.
“We ravens never voted for him. This ‘king’ could not win a single riddle contest, let alone spell his own name,” he said acidly.
Jean Baptiste raised his eyebrows.
“Can you spell your name, Yngvi?”
The raven replied, indignantly: “I am Yngvi of Clan Rune! I can spell my name and write it at midnight with my wings tied behind my back.”
He did not add that his grandmother had actually made him do that on several occasions.
“Show me how you write your name.” Jean Baptiste wanted proof.
They were almost through the forest now. The sound of the surf crashing against big rocks was getting louder. Yngvi felt a wave of relief. While he enjoyed riding on Jean Baptiste’s shoulder, seeing all those tree trunks struggling for space and light made him claustrophobic. He was a free spirit from the sky, and he needed to see its blue infinity on a regular basis.
Jean Baptiste took a few more strides, and then they were on the shore. There was a small beach, and the raven could guess that was where he would be asked to write his name. Without prompting, he took off and, wings outstretched, landed softly. There was a flat patch of sand begging for someone to doodle in it. Jean Baptiste watched in polite silence as Yngvi took great care drawing strange symbols with his big toe.
When the raven had finished scribbling, he hopped onto a rock and started grooming himself. Jean Baptiste came closer and scrutinized Yngvi’s name. In his life he had seen many different types of writing – even hieroglyphs and petroglyphs – but none of them resembled these.
“What kind of symbols are they?” he asked finally.
“Why, runes,” Yngvi said matter-of-factly and dislodged the last grain of sand from his feet.
The knight bent down and traced the runes, committing them to his memory. Runes? Riddle contests? Where had these ravens come from? Jean Baptiste shook his head.
“I am speechless, Yngvi. Your name looks very mystic, very beautiful.”
Yngvi tried not to look smug. The runes were magical symbols obtained by the Norse god Odin from the well of wisdom under the world tree Yggdrasil. He had given up an eye for them too. And while he was nursing his empty eye socket, a pair of ravens that happened to be sitting in the tree had taken a quick drink from the same well. Too smart now for their own kind, they were left with no choice but to enter Odin’s service. They flew over the world, watching and listening, and reported everything back to the god. Such glorious times!
Jean Baptiste gestured for Yngvi to perch on his shoulder again. A wave came rushing ashore, washing over the runes, smoothing the sand as if to invite more writing. Yngvi felt tempted, but his empty belly reminded him that he was rather hungry. He eyed Jean Baptiste’s left ear and gave it an affectionate peck.
“Ouch, no biting of ears, please. Here, you can have this.” A piece of flat bread was produced and passed to the bird. Yngvi caught it deftly in his beak and chewed in quiet concentration.
Jean Baptiste turned and studied the island ahead of them. It was a massive piece of white rock, forested on one side. Its steep slopes rose from the ocean in a ring of fog. The vault – the secret archive. It would last forever.
“Say, Yngvi, would the new eagle attack people if they disembarked on that island?”
Yngvi finished his snack and cleaned his teeth with a claw. He would have to relieve himself soon, but he was too well bred to do it on Jean Baptiste’s shoulder. Now, a gull would not hesitate – even that self-proclaimed king of all birds would probably unload himself anywhere, but Odin’s ravens had standards.
“I would not go there when the eagles have young ones. But even eagles have to hunt, and I could tell you when this one is away and the coast is clear.”
Jean Baptiste thought it would be interesting to have an attack eagle on the island, but the bird was probably wary of humans and would not care about being trained.
“Excuse me,” Yngvi flapped his wings and flew out of sight. Jean Baptiste moved on; the raven would catch up with him later. He traversed some big boulders with caution. A sprained ankle or a broken bone was not something he could afford right now.
Rocks, yes. He had been wanting to take a closer look at a particularly interesting rock on the other side of Seal Cove. It resembled a small pyramid. Was it natural or man-made? It would make a good landmark if you knew what to look for, like the oak trees the knights had planted at a decoy treasure pit on another island.
He made a mental note about the things he would do. One, learn runes. Two, investigate the pyramid rock. Three, cut his hair and trim his beard. Oh, how he wished for a hot bath …
The wind was gusting now, and it was time to return to his home for the winter, a cozy dugout in the side of a small hill. The ocean was getting rough, its heaving surface slate grey, its waves menacing. Two black shapes were gliding on the wind: One would be Yngvi, and the other was probably his cousin. They were headed for the highest place this side of the island, the top of his hill, which Jean Baptiste liked to use as an observatory.
When he climbed it, the ravens were perching on a pine bough swaying in the wind. Yngvi gave a piercing croak and spilled the news:
“The L’nuk are coming. Cousin Alvis has seen them. They are local hunters.”
Jean Baptiste assumed Alvis was the shy raven that had come with Yngvi. Eyes in the sky. He had to make sure they would always be his allies.
“I am grateful, Alvis, for this warning,” he said solemnly. “How many are coming? When will they be here?”
Alvis shifted his weight, and Yngvi inclined his head toward him. Some kind of communication passed between them, although no sounds were involved. Jean Baptiste waited patiently for a translation.
“A small band of 30 in eight canoes,” Yngvi pronounced. “They will be here before the snowstorm. They are armed, but they are not expecting to find anyone here.”
“Understood. I do not wish to fight; however, I must be ready to defend myself.” Jean Baptiste was quickly reviewing possible strategies. Alvis’ forewarning gave him the advantage of surprising these L’nuk. He should avoid violence at all costs. He must have looked troubled because Yngvi fluttered down onto his shoulder.
“Our clan will protect you. Do not worry.”
Jean Baptiste’s weathered face cracked into a smile.
“Where is your sword?” he asked the raven.
“I left it at home.”
“I see. Then what do you propose to do?” the knight eyed the raven with interest.
“I will be your ambassador,” Yngvi said modestly. “I believe I have the L’nuwey medicine man’s ear.”
Figuratively speaking. Should he mention the tribe’s influential grandmothers?
Jean Baptiste was lost in his own thoughts. He was apprehensive but also intrigued. What did the L’nuk look like? Was the medicine man their leader? What would the other knights say if they found out that a raven had saved his hide?
Thanks for reading this review of Nicky and the Lost Templar By Alessandra Nadudvari, a young adult fantasy novel!