The author is a renowned historical novelist and this history is a rare achievement, being both a detailed account of world-shaping events, and an exciting, pacy narrative with flashes of humour. The bulk of the text relies on the large three-volume standard authority, 'History of the Crusades', by Sir Steven Runciman, but the general level of writing makes it suitable for the average reader and introductory history courses. Supported by a good selection of maps, line drawings, and photographs the roots of the story are skillfully sketched in the introductory chapter, covering first century Jerusalem, the Roman Emperor Constantine c.AD300, the splitting of the Roman empire into east and west, the rise of Islam in Arabia, and the establishment of Christian pilgrimage from Europe to the Holy Sites in Jerusalem. The bulk of the text then gives a vivid outline of the characters, the places, and the politics of the Crusades from 1097-1291. Many famous names are set in context and brought to life: the Norman knights; Saladin and Richard (Coeur de Lion) the Lionheart; the Popes, Caliphs, and Emperors; Zengi and the Turks; the original Assassins of Persia and the Knights Templar, Hospital, and Teutonic--all are faithfully and rapidly recounted and fairly represented. A feast of a book, which manages to make the whole period come alive, and whets the appetite for more.
This report prepared by Michael JR Jose