Tuesday, 2 July 2013

Earning One's Stars: THE OATH by Michael Jecks

The Oath by Michael Jecks
It is not easy to compose this review of The Oath by Michael Jecks. It is #29 in a 32 book series and I have three more in the series to read after this one. So how does a reviewer keep it fresh and not find her or himself just saying the same things about the same characters over and over? I have three more to review and I don't want them to blend into one.
It was stewing on this that helped me decide how I should write this review. I needed to write a review for the reader who has not read all the Knights Templar Mysteries. The reader who, like me, may have read the first book, but has not been able to source all the Mysteries and therefore chose to reboot in the most recent releases.
Or the other reader. The one who has never read a Michael Jecks and is happy to come in anywhere as long as he or she can be assured that the books are stand alone.

That is what I want to touch on most in this review. How stand alone is it? Can a reader come into the series at this book if they have not read the preceding books?
As far as plot and setting are concerned, they are this. It is 1326. England is in turmoil as Edward II is at war with his Queen, Isabella. As armies approach and towns fortify, preparing for seige, the countryside is plagued by gangs of roving thieves and deserters.

There are the kind of events you would expect from a mystery series. Without giving too much away. You can expect a death. Maybe more. Killers on the loose. An investigation or two.
You will also get what you expect from a Michael Jecks Knights Templar Mystery, and that is the Bailiff Simon Puttock and the retired Templar, Sir Baldwin de Furnshill.

Now to the crux of it. As mentioned above, I came to this 32 book series having only read the first book, The Last Templar. I could not source all the books - nor could I source them in order – and so I always put off rediscovering more books by the author.
Many series' are so tightly locked together that it is a waste of time picking up books from anywhere in the series as they will not make sense.
I was delighted to discover that my concerns regarding this series were mostly unfounded. They can stand alone. Well, at least this one does. I have the next three books in the series to read and I will be judging them on their ability to stand alone too as I get to them.

Now, I don't want to foreshadow my positive remarks regarding 'stand alone' with a few words of a contradictory nature, but I have to admit this. For the reader who has not read many of the books in the series there are going to be certain levels of enjoyment missing from the book. It has been a long journey for the main characters between The Last Templar and The Oath and I did find myself detached from them. Like the characters were never properly introduced and as a result, were always strangers that I would never get to know.
I found myself not caring all that much for Simon and the characters closest to him as there seemed too much water under the bridge since book #1. I had better luck with Sir Baldwin. I remember him more robustly from book one and so I found myself enjoying his sections in The Oath. I also enjoyed the 'walk on' character Robert, who you will get to know if you choose to read this book. I do think he was my favourite character in the story.

I would recommend that anybody approaching this series for the first time - or if you have only read one or two – brace yourself for the potential disconnect from the main characters.
I kind of expected to know them better than I did and so I stumbled about on this book. A little perplexed, slightly disaffected and trying to work out why I could not reattach myself to Simon and Sir Baldwin. For this reason I have to give the book 3 1/2 stars out of 5. But every part of those three and a half stars is positive. It earned them and they are well deserved.
I did like the story, the setting, and the elegant writing. I wanted so badly to give the book 4 stars, but I have to be honest with myself. I think if I had read more books in the series and not lost touch with the main characters then it would be a solid 4 star book for me. I expect to find 4 or even 5 star books in the series to come.

On a positive finish. I have a gut feeling that following this baptism of fire with The Oath, my foot may be more solidly placed back inside the world of Simon and Sir Baldwin. I am hoping that I have been re-acclimated and that when I meet the characters again in the next book, King's Gold, we will be a better fit..

I received The Oath from publishers Simon & Schuster for reading and reviewing. Thank you to them.

- MM


  1. Thanks for reviewing this book, its one that I have bought without reading any of the other of Michael Jeck's books. I have it on my TBR pile and have heard so much about them that is both positive and negative, especially the author's take on Edward II. I have found your review helpful and look forward to making up my own mind about this book when I get round to reading it. Love your blog by the way, very vibrant and attractive to the eye.

    1. Hi Paula,
      That's good. I am happy my review doesn't put potential readers off. I believe the book to be a good read for people like us late to the series, but better for people who have read more of the series.
      You have to let me know what you think when you get to it. I am very interested to see your take on it seeing as you have come into the series having read none of the series.

      Thanks for complimenting my blog. :D
      It took me a long time to get the design right when I first set it up, but I never get sick of it. I find myself quite often lost staring at the details in the background. :)

  2. My knee-jerk reaction to such a HUGE series was that I couldn't commit the reading time to get into it (and miss out on other books) but you've reassured me that I can give one a try, so you've done the author a favour while - as always - writing a very personal, honest review.

    1. I am actually relieved that my review did express what I wanted it to. You can never tell if you are sending the right message without feedback. So thanks for the feedback Jean (and Paula).

      I mentioned on GR this morning that what I want people to know is that I think the book and plot is enjoyable enough, but your enjoyment levels are dependent upon how well each reader connects with the main characters. If the reader has read none or few of the series.