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The Youngest Templar: Keeper of the GrailKeeper of the Grail

September 18, 2008
Putnam Juvenile
ISBN-10: 0142414611
ISBN-13: 978-0142414613

The Third Crusade. In the Holy Land that the Knights Templar call Outremer, a young squire, born an orphan, is ordered by his Knight to carry a sacred relic to safety. It is the most precious thing in all of Christendom. Men would gladly kill him to possess it. Knights from his own order are driven mad in their quest to have it for themselves. And only he is trusted with this sacred duty.

But every duty has a price. Pursued by evil Knights, Saracens, and secret agents of the King, Tristan will be tested at every turn as he fulfills his mission: return the Holy Grail to England.

Will he succeed? Or will the nefarious forces aligned against him prevent him from succeeding?

The Youngest Templar: Keeper of the Grail

Though I am called Tristan, I have no true name of my own. It was Brother Tuck who found me on St. Tristan’s Day, nearly sixteen years ago. He is a kind and gentle man, but a ­deaf-­mute, and unable to even write down for me how I came to be here. The abbot, a much sterner sort, tells me that I was found that August night on the steps of the abbey. A few days old at best, hungry and crying, wrapped in a soiled woolen blanket.

I’m told the sound of horses could be heard riding away through the night, but since Brother Tuck was the first to find me, we know not if he saw or even glimpsed the riders. The abbot said that two of the brothers followed the tracks into the woods but soon lost the trail.

He also thinks I must be of noble blood. No peasant could afford to own such horses, and it is unlikely a poor farmer would abandon an infant that might one day grow strong enough to help him work the farm. Nor would any illiterate peasant likely be able to write the note that was neatly tucked into the folds of my blanket. On a simple scrap of rolled parchment, wrapped with red ribbon, it read, “Brothers: We bestow onto you this innocent child. His life threatens many. Remind him that he was loved, but safer away from those who would wish him harm. We will be watching over him until it is time.”

So whoever left the note must consider me safe now that I am nearly sixteen. For as near as anyone at the abbey can tell, no one has ever come here and asked about or “watched over” me in any way. Perhaps my parents, whoever they are, were unable to fulfill that promise.

The monks were always kind to me, but they were Cistercians and believed that one was never too young to work. I earned my keep there. However, I bore them no ill will, for the monks worked just as hard as I did. I lived at St. Alban’s for all of my life, and my earliest memories were not of the names and faces of the monks, but of chores. We were a poor abbey but grew enough crops and raised enough sheep and goats to get by. Our needs were few. There was wood in the surrounding forest to see us through each winter. The gardens provided us with plentiful vegetables, and the fields gave us wheat, which we turned into bread. If there was ever anything else we needed, the brothers traded for it in Dover or one of the nearby villages.

It was a quiet and calm existence, but the work was endless. The garden was my main contribution to the abbey. Brother Tuck and I tended it from planting in the spring to harvest in the fall. Working the hoe through the soil was quiet work, and gave me much time to think. The garden sat in a sunny spot behind the abbey, and once the rainy spring was over, the weather was usually fine and fair.

The Youngest Templar: Keeper of the Grail

Our abbey was located on the travelers’ road a day’s ride northwest of Dover. There were thirty monks in service there. Built many years ago it rose up out of the surrounding forest like a small wooden castle. It was simple in its design, because Cistercians are not frivolous, believing man is here to serve God, not adorn his buildings in finery.

Still, it was a comfortable place, inviting and welcoming to the few travelers who passed our way. The main hall where the brothers gathered to dine and pray was well lighted by the windows that rose high in the peaks. The surrounding grounds were neat and well tended, for the brothers believed that keeping things orderly kept one’s mind free to focus on God.

Except for the forest around the abbey grounds, and a trip to Dover three years before, I had seen no more of the world—though that was not all I knew of it. The monks offered shelter to travelers along the road to Dover, and from them I heard things. Exciting things happening in ­far-­off places that made me wish for a chance to leave and see them for myself. Some told tales of wonder and adventure, of magnificent battles and exotic places. Recently, most all of the talk was of the Crusade. King Richard, who some called the Lionheart, carried out his war in the Holy Land, and it ­wasn’t going well. King Richard had been on the throne for almost two years, and had spent most of his time away from England fighting in the Crusades. He was called the Lionheart because he was said to be a ferocious warrior, brave and gallant, and determined to drive the Saladin and his Saracens from the Holy Land.

The Saladin was the leader of the Muslim forces opposing King Richard. He was said to be as courageous and fierce a warrior as the Lionheart, consumed with ridding the Holy Land of Christians. Even those who said that God was on our side conceded that defeating the Saladin would not be easy.

For the monks, the news from the east was of particular interest. To them, the rise of the Saladin was a signal that the end of days was near. Perhaps the Savior would soon come again.

The Youngest Templar: Keeper of the Grail

These were my thoughts, on a clear and sunny day, as I worked beside Brother Tuck in the garden. Brother Tuck was a large man, strong and sturdy, with a generous heart. Though he ­couldn’t speak, he made a soft humming noise while pushing his hoe through the soil, moving to some rhythm only he felt. He could not hear the riders approach, or the sound of horses’ hooves pounding across the hard ground, or the clang of chain mail and sword as the knights reined up at the abbey gate.

Knights wearing the brilliant white tunics with red crosses emblazoned across their chests. The Warrior Monks. The famous Poor Fellow Soldiers of Christ and of the Temple of Solomon. Known to all as the Knights Templar.

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NEWS!
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The Youngest Templar: Keeper of the Grail has been named to the 2010-2011 Truman Readers Award List in Missouri.

The Youngest Templar: Keeper of the Grail has been named to the state reading lists in Alabama, Maine, Missouri, and Vermont. Follow the links below to see all the books that have been selected and if you’re a student, teacher or librarian in Alabama, Maine or Vermont don’t forget to vote! (And of course we mean for Michael!)

• The Emphasis on Reading Program is Alabama's children's choice award program and is sponsored by the Alabama Department of Education. Students vote for their favorite titles from one of three lists. For more information, please visit Emphasis on Reading for voting.

• The Maine Student Book Award, jointly sponsored by the Maine Library Association, Maine Association of School Libraries, and Maine Reading Association, is a Maine children's choice award program. Students in grades 4-8 are eligible to vote. For more information (and to vote), please visi the Main Student Book Award site.

• The Dorothy Canfield Children's Book Award, co-sponsored by the Vermont State PTA and the Vermont Department of Libraries, is Vermont's children's choice award program. Each spring, a committee of eight carefully selects 30 books to comprise the Master List. After reading at least 5 books from the list, students in grades 4-8 then vote for their favorite titles the following spring. For more information (and to vote), please visit the Dorothy Canfield site.

The Youngest Templar: Keeper of the Grail has been selected for the Truman Reader's Award list in Missouri.

“This is the first title in a potentially exciting series that encapsulates historical fiction sprinkled with intrigue, tied together with a plot that keeps the reader turning pages... I think this will be an easy sell in any library. Highly Recommended."
~ Emily Garreett Cassady for Library Media Connection

“Everything is done with just enough tension and description to spur the story along—that's the mark of a great storyteller... Run out and grab a copy of The Youngest Templar for all of the young readers on your holiday list. It will be one book that will launch readers into an adventure that they'll be fantasizing about for a long time!"
~ MyShelf.com
Read the full review

The Youngest Templar: Keeper of the GrailI cannot recommend this book highly enough. Not only is it a fast-paced and enjoyable read, it is one of those rare books today that hearkens back to a time when books for boys were about masculine things, and unapologetically so."
~ Stephen Dafoe for TemplarHistory.com
Read the full review

This is a winner! The Holy Grail, the Knights Templar, even Rosslyn might remind readers of The Da Vinci Code, of course, and Spradlin might be having some fun playing on that familiarity... Terrific adventure, which even younger YAs can follow as they learn something about a totally different world. "
~ Claire Rosser for KLIATT
Read the full review

Let the fighting begin! The deadly action, uncompromising in many of its descriptions, may take center stage, but Spradlin smartly doesn’t neglect story. Tristan is given an immense challenge and responsibility and meets new friends, whose names clever readers will find familiar. The stirring saga ends with a true cliff-hanger, priming fans for the next installment."
~ Booklist

"This book is perfect for history or action/adventure fans. It accurately depicts the happenings of the Crusades while adding an interesting story into the mix. For this, I give it 9 out of 10."
~ Robert, age 14, a reader at Mrs. Nelson's Book & Toy Shop, LaVergne, CA

Five Stars!
“...packed with one exciting event after another... The Youngest Templar series is sure to grab the attention of middle grade and teen readers. They will speed through this first book and be anxiously awaiting the second, due out next fall."
~ TeensReadToo.com Read the full review.

The Youngest Templar: Keeper of the Grail is terrific--it's got great characters, cinematic action, and an almost magical way of making history come alive. Spradlin also has a deep appreciation of the Templar' spiritual and sometimes tragic crusade to free the Holy Land, as seen through the eyes of a boy on the brink of manhood. I really enjoyed this book."
~ T. Jefferson Parker, New York Times Bestselling author of L.A. Outlaws and
California Girl

A masterful blend of whimsical fantasy, spellbinding suspense, and historical mystery, read it before a crackling fire and allow it to sweep you away into another world and time. A classic adventure in the making, not to be missed!"
~ James Rollins, New York Times best-selling author of The Last Oracle

The Youngest Templar is a rollicking medieval adventure, full of mystery surprise and danger. The young hero is a wonderful character, smart, loyal and believably brave. I can't wait for more!"
~ Peter Abrahams, New York Times Best-Selling Author of Down The Rabbit Hole

Adventure quest at its best. Tristan is a hero to remember. Readers will be dying for the next installment."
~ Meg Cabot, New York York Times Bestselling author of Avalon High and Jinxed

“Some good Dan Brown style adventure and mystery. All the right ingredients: The Holy Grail, Knights Templar, and as added extras, Robin Hood and Maid Marian."
~ The Bookseller (UK)

“I found the Keeper of the Grail an engrossing adventure. Spradlin weaves authentic bits and pieces of the history of the Crusades into the story, placing Tristan in the middle of the capture and recapture of the city of Acre, by Saladin himself. Tristan is sent from Acre just as the city falls to the Saracens. Entrusted with the task of taking the Holy Grail to Scotland and the Church of the Holy Redeemer, Tristan embarks on the quest to save one of the most important relics of Christendom; a very tall task for a young boy."
~ Eating Ya Books
Read the full review.

“Michael Spradlin is a good story teller. Even readers who do not know much about the Crusades will be able to follow along with this tale of a boy learning about himself, learning how to become a man, and learning who he really is. Tristan is a likable character who shows tremendous bravery, loyalty, and cleverness. Readers can relate to Tristan when he faces Sir Hugh, the bully. The readers will be cheering for Tristan each time he escapes another close call."
~ Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy
Read the full review.

“Bit by bit the author brings in the characters who will be come members of the legendary Robin Hood men along with the Saracen Maryam. All this makes for great reading that will capture the imagination of adolescent readers as they eagerly await the new adventures to come."
~ Reading Time, The 2010 Children's Book Council of Australia

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See the map for The Youngest Templar.
See the foreign covers and link to the German trailer.
Download the Reading Guide.

As a child, I was fascinated by the stories and legends of the Middle Ages, particularly the Third Crusade; the time of Richard the Lionheart, Robin Hood and Elinor of Aquitaine. I loved the high adventure, the epic battles, and the political intrigue. When I began writing, I knew I would set a book during this period. There were just too many great stories.

When I was in college I first became familiar the Knights Templar. A monastic order first founded in 1104, they were first given the duty of protecting pilgrims on the roads to Jerusalem. Because they were quartered in Solomon’s Temple, they became known as the Poor Fellow Soldiers of Christ and King Solomon’s Temple, or simply The Knights Templar.

Their numbers grew and so did their influence. In a short time, some could argue the Knights Templar became the most powerful and influential military force in the Christian world. Much of this has to do with the enormous wealth they amassed. Where did this great wealth come from? That is one of the great historical mysteries.

Shortly after arriving in Jerusalem the Knights began a massive excavation in the Temple. What did they find beneath one of the most holy places in the World? No one knows. Perhaps it was the Holy Grail. Maybe it was the One True Cross or the Lost Ark of the Covenant. It is this mystery that has confounded scholars and conspiracy theorists alike for hundreds of years.

We only know that from their humble beginnings they became enormously wealthy. And in fact their great riches lead to their downfall. On October the 13th, 1307 King Philip IV of France in league with Pope Clement V condemned the Templar’s as heretics and ordered them executed. In reality Philip wanted their massive wealth. Knowing the end was coming, the Templar’s hid their riches and the treasure was never found. It remains missing to this day. Many of the Templar’s, including the Master of the Order Jacques de Molay, were burned at the stake. (This is where the origin of Friday the 13th as an unlucky day comes from.)

So in this world, I set my new novel THE YOUNGEST TEMPLAR: Keeper of the Grail. The hero, Tristan becomes a squire to a Templar Knight and during a critical battle in the Holy Land he is given the Holy Grail and ordered to return in to England for safe-keeping. Along the way he is pursued by Saracens, spies and secret agents of the crown. It’s full of action, adventure and as I always insist, stuff blowing up.

I hope you enjoy it!

 

The Map:
This map appears in the end papers (inside the back cover) of The Youngest Templar. Hint: click the map to see the much bigger pdf version.

Foreign Covers:

Below on the left is the German cover for The Youngest Templar: Keeper of the Grail. The middle one is the new Australian cover, and the one to its right is the British cover! The first in the second row is the French cover, and the last one is the Greek cover. For even more things German, click over to Michael's blog and watch the German trailer for The Youngest Templar.

German coverAustralian coverBritish cover

French coverGreek cover

 


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The following video interview is split into two segments. Please make sure to start with Part 1 (directly below) first. Enjoy!

Part 1:

 

Part 2:

 

The Youngest Templar: Keeper of the Grail is an MASL Readers Award Nominee.


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