Sunday, August 3, 2014

Book Review - The Templars Paradox

The Templar Paradox – Jon Champs

This is a first for me. I discovered this book after the author followed me on Twitter. Their short blurb and polite request to check out their book intrigued me enough to delve into the reviews. Being a sucker for lost ancient artefacts that are rumoured to contain immense power I decided to take the plunge.

The Blurb:

Seven hundred years ago a group of Templar Knights flee, on secret orders to carry a rediscovered holy relic of vast power and hide it. They escape and create a new home, secretly creating a vast monument to the relic nobody but they know exists.

In the present Jake Sheridan a partly disgraced history lecturer runs away from his own problems by moving to France. Before he knows it his life is turned upside down as he finds himself embroiled in a struggle to understand a string of murders going back 70 years, a deeply personal challenge he never envisioned and a host of gossip hungry British Ex-Pats who'll make his life a misery for their own amusement.

Torn and driven at the same time, his sense of justice, reality and what’s right catapults him into a complex web of living history, avarice and naked ambition. As the body count mounts and the plot thickens, can Jake find the answers before the devastating consequences play out?

To be honest, this book does not start well. Now please bear with me, because although I might be very negative at the start of the review, my opinion does change.

The opening chapter involves the main protagonist Jake Sheridan having a rather mundane conversation with his wife over moving to France. Jake sees this as a new start and a chance to put his sketchy past behind him where he has been broadly discredited as a historian and author.

I am not too sure what this chapter hopes to achieve as there is no conflict between Jake and his wife. She agrees to the move and does not develop a personality in the process.

We then wade through some very disjointed chapters where the wife’s new flat is broken into and Jake suddenly through a series of random erections around men, decides he is gay.

The break-in just feels out of place. I assume the whole purpose is to establish that Jake no longer loves his wife anymore, but his lack of concern for her wellbeing is baffling. Even if I no longer wanted to be with my wife, I am not sure I would feel comfortable leaving her in a city all by herself, when I knew it had been broken into more than once. 

Even stranger, when Jake first visits his wife, she is distraught that the flat her employer has provided, is worse than a pig sty. However, when they enter the apartment together, the place has been scrubbed from top to bottom, with new paint, carpets and furniture – definitely a mystery, but not as much of a mystery as the fact that whoever cleaned the apartment accidentally forgot to take a video with gay porn on it from the VCR and a bunch of cassettes that were extremely valuable.

However, interspersed within the opening chapters is a flashback of three Knights fleeing across Europe and in possession of something of immense value. This chapter is so superior to the modern day chapters it sticks out by a mile and made me wish the whole novel was set in this time period.

Once Jake gets to his new home in France, things improve. The book flows more evenly as he introduces himself to the community and begins to settle in. Events occur more organically and we finally get a sense (around 20% in the novel) of what the story might be about). If I was editing the novel this is where I would begin it
Jake is so-so protagonist. He is a bit too bland to be likeable and his refusals to acknowledge his sudden gay inclinations soon become irksome. 

There are only so many times you can read about him getting turned on by men and dismissing what it might mean before it begins to grate. 
Once this particularly facet of his personality is resolved, the plot settles down into a steady pace. 

There are still annoying inconsistencies for example, Jake’s partner wakes up every morning as spritely as can be, performing several press-ups, but when they get up early to go to an airport he suddenly has “zero energy.”

The Templar’s Paradox swings between a romance novel and a thriller. As a result the “thriller” aspect of the plot suffers. Events randomly happen to Jake such as being shot at but he does not seem too bothered by it. There is never a sense of continual danger, instead the plot falls into the pattern of something dangerous happening to Jake and then the next minute he shrugs his shoulders and hops into bed. This danger, shag, danger, shag approach dilutes any tension that has built up.

A lot of the action also takes place off camera so to speak. There are multiple murders, but they are almost always told in retrospect. However, despite the shaky start, I can honestly say that at no point did I want to give up on the book. Jon Champs writing style is easy going and intelligent. Jon clearly knows his subject matter well and this translates well into the prose. Occasionally, there are info dumps and Jon has a rather humorous in ability to talk about a car without describing the exact make and model number.

The last third of the novel are without doubt the strongest. The writing is more assured and more important effortless. The plot flows as the lose threads come together nicely and the mystery is revealed.

The ending (apart from one revelation that is a little too hard to accept) is actually quite clever and rounds things up nicely. There is a reason why the mediocre start of the book is essential to the start and the inconsistencies do start to make sense. I still feel it would have been better without the opening chapters and would have liked to have had more flashbacks (there is only one more chapter and again this is very strong).

Overall, I am pleased I gave this novel a try. It improved with every page I read and for a debut is commendable. I feel compelled to mention that there are quite a few errors within the text, not enough to ruin the book, but way above the average amount. Some of them are so glaring that a proof reader would pick up instantly.

My rating 6.2