Joseph Nassise’s THE TEMPLAR CHRONICLES series features a modern-day Knights Templar organization that battles the supernatural bad guys of the world. Its hero, Cade Williams, is a member of the Templars but has an uncanny reputation among the order for his psychic abilities. The Heretic is the first in the series and revolves around a cabal of sorcerers who is attacking Templar commanderies, slaughtering the members, and desecrating the cemeteries in search of a holy relic. Cade and his unit are assigned to the problem. The Heretic could be described as urban fantasy by way of a paramilitary/religious thriller.
As is apropos for a thriller, The Heretic includes a lot of action and tough-guy heroics. There’s also a great deal of gore, so the weak of stomach need not apply.
Unfortunately, character development is sparse. There are only two women in the book; one of them is horribly murdered before the plot begins and the other is horribly murdered early in the book. Perhaps a Templar-focused novel was destined to be a sausage fest, but I can’t say the men fare much better. There are more of them, but they’re not well developed. Cade is given a touch of humanity by his grief for his late wife, but this is mentioned only in a few key scenes. The rest of the time he seems like a machine. The narrative is rarely introspective, instead simply giving the blow-by-blow of his outward actions as he orders and shoots and enhanced-interrogates his way through the plot. The other characters are less developed than Cade is. Perhaps the absence I felt most keenly was that of humor; no one ever cracks a joke. I didn’t realize until reading The Heretic how much I’ve come to count on a pinch of sarcasm and a dash of gallows humor in my urban fantasy.
The writing is unornamented and occasionally has issues such as abrupt point-of-view shifts and repetitive sentence structure. The Heretic was originally published in 2005, however, and it’s clear from Robert’s review of Nassise’s 2011 novel Eyes to See that he has grown in his prose writing in the intervening years. I would be willing to try another book of his one day.
The Heretic is not a horrible book; it just isn’t for me. It could be a 3-star or 4-star book for a very different type of reader. This is a novel about manly men stoically getting the job done, with little in the way of stylistic or emotional frills. If that appeals to you, give this book a try. But for my own part, I must confess I like my frills.