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The Swords of Faith

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  • Posted August 4, 2011

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    Great novel of the Crusader period

    The Swords of Faith is a richly detailed book. The level of detail blew me away. It left me with a vivid impression of the Crusader period and of the principal historical figures, Richard the Lionhearted and Saladin, each aided and influenced by the unlikely friendship of the protagonists Pierre of Botron and Rashid.

    The story begins in Outremer, where several kingdoms have been carved out in the Middle East by the first generation of those who "took up the cross" with an intent to reclaim Jerusalem from the Muslims. Pierre is a third generation warrior from Outremer, captured in a decisive battle where Saladin, the Muslim leader defeats the king of Jerusalem. Pierre unwillingly enters the service of Rashid, whose goal is to recapture the prestige his family once held prior to the Crusader kingdoms. In Europe, Prince Richard vies with his father Henry II, his brother John and an erstwhile ally, King Philip of France. Richard wants to rule in his father's stead and earn fame and glory as a Christian warrior, so he sets his sights on the Holy Land and an eventual confrontation with Saladin.

    Pierre has founded an unlikely friendship with Rashid and a new life with a Christian slave, Atiya, but there are secrets in Rashid's past that threaten to undo the basis of their relationships. Richard's determination matches Saladin's own and both fear they will not the final arbiters of a conflict that has existed for generations.

    Politically savvy readers will be painfully aware of the parallels to recent clashes between militant Islam and the West, while those who love adventure and the medieval period are in for a feast of generous historical details. Without giving the ending away, it left me a little conflicted, much as it seemingly did for each of the central characters.

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  • Posted July 29, 2010

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    An outstanding epic novel about the 3rd Crusades

    In the 12th century, under the leadership of Richard the Lionheart, knights marched into the Holy Land to reconquer it and wrench it from the grip of Saladin, its Kurdish Muslim Sultan. It was known as the Third Crusade, and although it was considered a failure, it was the catalyst which fired the need for a Fourth Crusade years later.

    Two larger than life men are at the heart of this sweeping epic. One is Saladin, the charismatic and chivalrous Saladin who staunchly conducts himself with honour even though his followers did not always obey his orders. He is driven to defeat and oust the foreign Christians forever from his lands. His rival is Richard the Lionheart, the pious and gallant English prince and king, who aims to re-conquer Jerusalem, the city the Christians lost to Saladin years before. Both men believe themselves called by God to lead their armies to victory against each other.

    Several endearing secondary characters pepper this intriguing story. Pierre of Botron, a captured knight is traded as a slave to Rashid, a wealthy merchant, for the cost of a ruined pair of shoes. Rashid of Yenbo, a man with a dark secret who is driven by greed and power, but who is also a loving son, father-figure, and trustworthy friend.

    Meticulously researched, the story recounts, in accurate detail, the history of this momentous event in history, from start to its finish. Author Richard Warren Field penned this incredibly story with such a vibrant simplicity that not only engrosses the reader in the plot, but that endears them to its colourful and intriguing characters.

    Field's passion for this period in history is clearly evident on every page. He relays historical facts and details through action and dialogue instead of narrative. In this way, he makes the story literally spring off each page. But the most striking quality of this novel is Field's ability to build three-dimensional, larger-than-life characters. He is able to show the reader all aspects of their personalities, good, bad, and ambivalent, by taking us into their thought innermost thoughts so that we understand what drives each character.

    The novel is long, but one that is easy to read and escape into. I could not help but fall into the story, eager to turn the page to learn a character's secret or discover the next plot twist. For anyone who wants to learn about the Crusades, this is the novel to start with, the first of a trilogy. Field is already well into completing the sequel. Look for Swords of Faith later in 2010!

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