The Knights of St. John battle a satanic cult in Steven A. McKay’s novella Knight of the Cross. Set in 14th century Rhodes, Knight of the Cross serves as a prequel to McKay’s take on the story of Robin Hood. The main protagonist is Sir Richard-at-Lee, a mercenary turned Catholic knight charged with investigating the mysterious disappearance of some of his fellow Hospitaller knights. That investigation leads him, and his loyal sergeant-at-arms, into a terrifying confrontation with a mysterious cult that worships a demon and practices human sacrifice.
Steven McKay hails from Old Kilpatrick, near Glasgow in Scotland. As a writer of historical fiction, McKay credits Bernard Cromwell and Douglas Jackson as among his inspirations. His debut novel Wolf’s Head was a hugely popular new take on the Robin Hood legend and it kicked off his bestselling Forest Lord series. One of the characters in that series is none other than Sir Richard, who serves as the main protagonist in Knight of the Cross. I have not yet read McKay’s Forest Lord series, but after reading Knight of the Cross, I may give it a try. I do enjoy historical fiction, and I’ve always found the Robin Hood legend entertaining.
McKay weaves some supernatural and fantasy elements into Knight of the Cross. Those elements, along with the violence and scenes of human sacrifice, will likely make this novella too disturbing for some readers. It’s certainly not recommended for children. In addition, while ostensibly a Christian novella, McKay has his characters drop the f-bomb a few times. While it may be realistic for battle-hardened warriors to speak with such language, I found it jarring as a Christian reader. Not to mention unrealistic, at least in my opinion, for devout Catholic knights of the 14th century. If one can look past these issues (not that anyone should feel at all obligated to do so), Knight of the Cross is a fast-paced, action-packed read with good (albeit flawed) heroes and thoroughly despicable villains.
My wife and I had the privilege of visiting Rhodes a couple years ago. Part of this story takes place at the Palace of the Grand Master of the Knights of Rhodes, a site that our church group visited. Having some of the novella’s scenes depicted in that palace made this story particularly interesting for me.
I do not recommend this book for kids. If I were to give it a rating, it would be PG-13 and possibly R. Some of my Christian readers will not want to pick it up at all. But those of you who enjoy action-packed historical fiction may want to give it a try.