A Templar's Apprentice (Book of Tormod)
by Kat Black
Cover Artist: Scott M. Fischer
Review by Beth Slater
Scholastic Press Hardcover ISBN/ITEM#: 9780545056540
Date: 01 February 2009 List Price $16.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /
In Scotland in 1307, things were different. The Knights Templar roamed the country, protecting travelers on their journeys - until King Philippe le Bel of France reigned and his armies invaded. But this and much else was little known to Tormod MacLeod and his family in their small hammock. What matters more than anything is getting the tinderbox to the Beltane bonfire on time, a duty 13 year-old Tormod had traded with his older brother but ended up responsible for anyway, as his brother shirked the duty. But as Tormod knows, his father will hold him responsible for getting the job done, and he is running as fast as he can back to their croft to find the tinderbox when fate intercedes.
Tormod has always been different – knowing things before they happen, and sensing what to do and when to do things before knowing when to do them. Everyone, including his own brother, treats him oddly, and he is simply biding his time until he can prove to everyone that he is worthy--of what, he’s not quite sure, but not the treatment he’s been given up to now.
While searching for the tinderbox, he is approached by a Knight, who needs a messenger. Fate, unbeknownst to Tormod, is stepping in. Tormod runs the message for the Knight to the Abbot instead of delivering the tinderbox, figuring he’d get a thrashing the next day. But once arriving at the Abbey, he sees men that he senses should not see the message. His sixth sense is accurate, and the men leave without getting the information they need. As Tormod is about to return home, he is struck with a Vision (much to his dismay), but once again, Fate is leading its course for him. The Abbot is able to use the information in a way that allows Tormod to help the Knight who sent the message – possibly saving his life.
The story is an interesting one in the life of a young man coming of age in this time period, with some history sewn into the story. More of the history of the period would be helpful – of the Templars or why the French soldiers were there and why they had to be avoided, etc.
There is much focus on the religious without specifics – so there can be confusion, such as mention of the Arabs, but not why they might not be trusted. But that it is okay to have magic and visions and astronomy – for fiction it’s great, but it’s sending some mixed messages, in my opinion, without offering pathways to further information, which even fiction needs for foundations. So I think it will be interesting to see where Black takes Tormod on his next journey as a Templar’s Apprentice.