The Holy Lance, by Andrew Latham

Latham Holy LanceThe Holy Lance

By Andrew Latham

Know Robinson Publishing, 2015

The year is 1191. A daring counterattack against the Saracens’ last-ditch effort to relieve the besieged city of Acre has not only saved the Christian host from a fatal defeat; it has also brought the leader of that counterattack, English Templar Michael Fitz Alan, to the attention of King Richard the Lionheart.

In the days that follow, the king charges Fitz Alan with a life-or-death mission – to recover the long-lost Holy Lance, a religious relic widely believed to be responsible for the near-miraculous success of the First Crusade.

The ensuing quest leads Fitz Alan and a hand-picked band of Templars on a journey deep into enemy territory, where they battle Saracens, Assassins, hostile Christians and even a traitor within their own ranks as they seek to return the Holy Lance to Christian hands and thereby ensure the success of the crusade.

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Read an excerpt: The Templars covered the first fifty yards or so at the canter.  Tightly packed, almost knee-to-knee, eight across and two deep, they formed a small but fearsome wedge of flesh, spirit and steel.  As they closed to within a hundred yards or so, Fitz Alan could see the enemy horsemen desperately trying to hold their formation.  But the ground was uneven and, while many were excellent riders and fighters, they were unpracticed and ill-disciplined.  Gaps began to open up in the line.  That was all Fitz Alan needed.  “Beauseant!” he cried and the banner roweled their horses to an unstoppable gallop.  Thundering now toward the enemy, Fitz Alan gripped his Saracen sword tightly.  Directly to his front, he picked out his target.  A bearded man, wearing a helmet and mail, he was carrying a lance in one hand and had kite shield looped over the other in such a way that he could hold both it and the horse’s leather-covered mail reins.  Fifty yards now.  The blood pulsed in his ears and he felt as if his heart was about to burst.  Twenty yards.  He stood in his stirrups and leaned forward in his saddle.  The enemy horseman raised his lance and pointed it directly at Fitz Alan’s chest.  The Templar was so close now that he could almost tell the color of his eyes.  The man leaned forward at the last moment, thrusting his lance toward his Templar opponent.  In a motion that he had practiced countless times, Fitz Alan used his sword to deftly flick the man’s lance back across his body, thus exposing the man’s neck.  The Templar drove past the now defenseless rider, delivering a vicious downward stroke that sliced though the man’s coif and bit hard into his neck.  Fitz Alan felt a sharp stab of pain in his right shoulder, but held onto the sword and let his forward motion wrench it from the man’s spine.  He marveled once again at the killing power of the Saracen sword the armorer had given him.  Vaguely aware of the screams and cries all around him, he allowed the force of the charge to carry him into the second conroi of the enemy force.  Fitz Alan began hacking and chopping at the mass of horsemen, first to his left and then his right, all the time keeping his destrier moving forward.  He could sense it now: the enemy force was broken.  The brawl would continue for a short while, but he sensed that it was now only a matter of time.  Resist the Devil and he shall flee, he thought.  Providing the Templars continued to fight as if they were fighting the devil himself.

To his left Fitz Alan saw de Fonte use his massive mace to smash the head of an unarmored horse.  The beast died instantly, its forelegs buckling first and pitching its rider forward over the horse’s shattered head.  De Fonte then swung his mace around and caught another man full in the face, just below where the broad nasal of his helmet ended.  The force of the blow sent a thick gobbet of tooth and blood and bone spraying into the air.  The man shot backward, lifted by the Gascon’s immense strength over the rear cantle of his wooden saddle and onto his back, writhing and frothing as he lay dying on the ground.

Fitz Alan was through the two enemy conrois now.  “Beauseant!” he called and the standard bearer quickly rallied to his side. “Beauseant!” he called again.  Within heartbeats, the Templar banner was forming up around him as they had so many times in practice and on the battlefield.  The enemy horses were running everywhere now, their riders desperate to escape the Templar warriors.  A dozen or so had been rallied by one of the enemy leaders, who was desperately trying to form them into some sort of battle formation.  That was all Fitz Alan needed to see.  “Templars!” he yelled, pointing to the half-formed mass.  “Beauseant!”  This time, he spurred his horse to the gallop right away, a dozen of his men packed tightly behind him.  His blood was up now and he could barely think straight.  Kill the bastards, he thought, kill them, kill them all.  And then he was moving through them, hacking with all his might against anything wearing a red surcoat, a merciless, ruthless killer at work in the fields of the Lord, all the while pressing forward, slashing as many of the red-coated demons as he could before emerging from their annihilated formation.  The enemy was in general retreat now, fleeing back toward the third conroi that stood motionless a few hundred paces from where the battle had raged.  Those poor few souls who found themselves wounded or unhorsed were quickly dispatched by the Templars, who showed exactly the degree of mercy they knew they would be shown if the circumstances were to be reversed.  Fitz Alan began to feel the euphoria of the battle subside and had to remind himself that he had to prepare lest the third conroi attack them while unformed.

“Brothers,” he called, “to me!  Form up on me!”

And Fitz Alan’s remaining dozen-and-a-half fighters began to assemble around their leader in the shadow of the Holy Lance and Beauseant.

“What d’ye reckon, William?”

“At least two score of the bastards left, my lord.  If we stand here much longer, they’ll charge and it’ll be over before it starts.  There are just too many of them.”

“And you, Arnaldus?”

“If William is correct, and I fear he is, we should strike now.  I’d rather die attacking than defending.  And perhaps we might yet carry the day.  What was it Saint Bernard once said?  ‘Rejoice, brave warrior, if you live and conquer in the Lord; but glory and exult even more if you die and join your Lord.’  Always been good enough for me.”

“Agreed.  Brother de Fonte, call the charge.”

And sixteen Templars charged forty men-at-arms.

About the Author

Knox Robinson author Andrew A. Latham is an award-winning professor of International Relations who regularly teaches courses in medieval political thought, international relations, and war. Trained as a Political Scientist, Latham has spent the last decade-and-a-half researching political violence in the Middle Ages. He has written scholarly articles on medieval war, the crusades, jihad, and the political thought of Saint Augustine and Saint Thomas Aquinas. His most recent book is a work of non-fiction entitled Theorizing Medieval Geopolitics: War and World Order in the Age of the Crusades.

Latham was born in England, raised in Canada and currently lives in the United States. He graduated from York University in Toronto with a BA (Honours) in Political Science, later earned an MA from Queen’s University in Kingston and, later yet, a PhD from his alma mater, York.

Latham is a member of the Historical Novel Society, the Historical Writers’ Association and De Re Militari: The Society For Medieval Military History.

Since 1997 Latham has been a member of the Political Science Department at Macalester College in Saint Paul, Minnesota, where he where he lives with his wife Wendy, daughter Bernadette and son Michael.

Praise for The Holy Lance

“A fascinating and thrilling story played out under the boiling heat of Palestine at a time when two cultures clashed violently over the ultimate prize of Jerusalem.  Andrew Latham has created a believable and sympathetic lead character in the Templar Fitz Alan as well as providing us with a thrilling insight into the mysteries of the Templar order.  A most enjoyable tale, like that of an experienced jongleur, set against the personal conflict between Richard of England and Saladin.  It vividly resurrects the life and death struggle between Saracen and Crusader.” Dr. Paul Doherty, OBE, historian and critically acclaimed author of dozens of works of historical fiction, including The Templar, The Templar Magician and most recently The Last of Days.

“A timely and compelling novel. The Crusades inform and often infect our understanding of the contemporary Middle East, and while this book is fiction it reveals much of the truth about that misunderstood era. Outstanding reading.” — Michael Coren, award-winning television host, radio personality, syndicated columnist, and best-selling author of fourteen books, including most recently The Future of Catholicism.

“Grizzled warriors, an epic conflict, a fabled quest: Latham’s engrossing tale of violence and faith careens savagely through the Third Crusade and its legendary clash of wills – ‘Coeur de Lion’ versus ‘Saladin’,  ‘Frank’ versus ‘Saracen’. The splendid English Templar, Michael Fitz Alan – flawed, fearless, lethal – here joins the front rank of historical fiction’s greatest warriors.” — Dr. Dean F. Oliver, award-winning author, director of research at the Canadian Museum of History, and Knight of the Order of Orange-Nassau.

“If you’re looking for an historical adventure soaked in blood…  Quest for the Holy Lance delivers….  Latham shows a welcome attention to complexities of the Crusader world and to the details of Templar life.  A satisfying amount of blood is shed as Michael Fitz Alan and his Templar troops battle their way towards their goal.  And the book offers a rousing conclusion, with the promise of more to come.  Bring it on!” — Jack Hight, author of The Saladin Trilogy.

Click here to visit the Publisher’s website 

Click here to visit Andrew Latham’s personal website – includes an excerpt from the novel. You can also like him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter.

See also our interview with Andrew on his non-fiction book Theorizing Medieval Geopolitics: War and World Order in the Age of the Crusades.


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