There aren’t many options available for orphan boys living in Jerusalem in the 12th century – when Pagan runs away from the monastery that raised him since he was abandoned on its doorstep as a newborn, he lives by his wits on the streets for several years, before joining the Crusade as squire to Templar Knight Sir Roland Roucy de Bam.
Jinks has done a magnificent job with this, the first is a series. Not only is the setting extraordinarily vivid, artfully laden with well-researched and well-integrated details, but the character of Pagan is magnificent. His wry internal dialogue, veering strongly toward the sarcastic, is genuinely funny, his observations of the world and events around his piquant, and his modesty combined with hero worship of Lord Roland is endearing.
I admit to being a little thrown by Pagan’s frequent curse of Christ in a cream cheese sauce (was cream cheese popular then?), but his careless blasphemy in the midst of great piety (often coupled, particularly in the case of pilgrims, with great stupidity) is beautifully contrast, and the rarity of his learning subtley highlighted. This is a series I look froward to completing with joy. - Alex.