Devil's Bargain

Devil's Bargain

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by Judith Tarr

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The year is 1191. The place is the Holy Land, where the knights of Christ are embroiled in a war with the armies of Islam. The prize is the holy city of Jerusalem.

Led by Richard the Lionheart, the armies of the West are conducting a Crusade against the sultan Saladin. In Cyprus, the king's mother, Eleanor, has struck a devil's bargain to grant Richard


The year is 1191. The place is the Holy Land, where the knights of Christ are embroiled in a war with the armies of Islam. The prize is the holy city of Jerusalem.

Led by Richard the Lionheart, the armies of the West are conducting a Crusade against the sultan Saladin. In Cyprus, the king's mother, Eleanor, has struck a devil's bargain to grant Richard victory at any cost. Only Sinan the sorcerer knows that victory will cost the king his immortal soul.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
After the brilliant, subtle Pride of Kings (2001), in which England's Prince John refreshingly proved to be a hero rather than a villain, Judith Tarr stumbles in her latest alternative historical fantasy, Devil's Bargain, which concerns King Richard and the Third Crusade. Sorcery and witchcraft in the struggle for the Holy Land make for an interesting mix, but shallow, trite characterizations will put off readers expecting better.
In this novel set in 1191, Tarr fictionalizes the historical account of the third crusade, Richard the Lionheart's attempt to capture the Holy Land. Richard is aided by his half-sister, Sioned, who is gifted with magical powers. He is also aided by his mother, Eleanor of Aquitaine, who makes a deal with a devil to secure her son's victory. Sioned, trained as a physician, follows Richard to the battlefield. Saphadin, the brother of Saladin, the Muslim leader, recognizes Sioned's magical powers: "You were the prince of mages that I saw before Arsuf." He apprentices her to his wife, Safiyah, who is a gifted sorceress. As her magic grows, Sioned becomes aware of Eleanor's bargain with "The Old Man of the Mountain." Her brother asks her to use her powers to defeat this devil, and she does so, as Richard successfully captures Jerusalem. Tarr's knowledge of her subject is impressive, and she brings it to life by fleshing out the historical account with believable characters, romance, and intrigue. As in her earlier novels, the world of magic and the spirits is infused throughout the mortal world. Those who are able to successfully summon the powers of both attain victory. Despite the complexity of the subject matter, the novel is readable and geared to a broad audience. It would be appropriate for most high school and public libraries. VOYA Codes: 3Q 4P S A/YA (Readable without serious defects; Broad general YA appeal; Senior High, defined as grades 10 to 12; Adult and Young Adult). 2002, Roc, 387p,
— Christine Sanderson
An alternative history, this is primarily a love story and a beautiful one at that. Richard the Lionheart is seeking to conquer Jerusalem for Christianity. The Arabs who live there have an entirely different opinion, and the Sultan and his armies are highly skilled warriors fighting on their own turf. Richard has strength of personality and tactical abilities, but his army of Franks and Britons are slowly being ground down by the heat, the need for raids to supply the army with food, and the obstacles of sand, spiders and disease. The author introduces pagan and Arabic magic into the mix. Richard has brought along Sioned, his half-sister and an adept sorceress, who communicates easily with the local spirits of the ancient cities. Richard's opponent, the lord Saphadin, has a wizard brother Ahmad to assist with negotiations. Magic calls to magic, and in between battles, Sioned and Ahmad meet and fall in love. Although on opposite sides, their mutual respect for the other world and love of learning bring them closer together even as political maneuverings place them in danger. Richard attempts to use Sioned to spy on an heir to the throne on order to either use him as an ally or remove him as an opponent, but instead Conrad is killed by an assassin and Sioned is accused of the murder. When she is imprisoned and condemned to death, Ahmad barters his soul to the mighty jinni to free her. There is much magnificence in the story, reminiscent of the better versions of the Arabian Nights tales, contrasting the architecture and elegance of the inhabitants of Arabia against the ruddy solidity of the Britons. Sioned is a skilled, independent character, openhearted and clear-minded, making Richard'slove of battle seem even more pointless and wasteful. Sensitive and vibrant, this is an intelligent romance, fine for all levels. (sequel to Pride of Kings). KLIATT Codes: JSA—Recommended for junior and senior high school students, advanced students, and adults. 2002, Penguin Putnam, Roc, 387p.,
— Liz LaValley
Library Journal
As Richard the Lionheart leads his armies on a seemingly doomed quest to capture Jerusalem, his mother, Eleanor, bargains with the Old Man of the Mountains, the master of assassins, to secure victory for her son. The price: Richard's soul. Only his bastard half-sister Sioned, attached as a healer to the armies of the First Crusade, dares to risk her own life and soul to rescue Richard from damnation. Tarr (Pride of Kings; Kingdom of the Grail) crafts an alternate history of the First Crusade that blends magic and myth with meticulously researched historical fact to create a tale of romance and intrigue that belongs in most libraries. Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.

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Penguin Publishing Group
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443 KB
Age Range:
3 Months

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Devil's Bargain 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
harstan More than 1 year ago
In 1192 on an Earth much like our own in most respects, Richard I is leading the third crusade to take the Holy Lands. His Majesty expects the battle to be fought on the mortal plane. However, he doesn¿t know that his mother, Queen Eleanor, a dark sorceress in her own right, has made a pact with Sinan, beloved of Ibris and all the other dark Gods that have ever lived. The Lionheart will win the war and take Jerusalem but the price will be very high.

Sioned, Richard¿s illegitimate half-sister is traveling with him on the campaign. She has the sight and power of magic that she will learn how to use from Ahmad, Saladin¿s half-brother who also possesses the talent. Enemies and lovers, the pair fights the powers of darkness that surround them, hoping that Richard will be able to fight off Sinan¿s power with the Seal of Solomon that Sioned stole from the enemy.

Harry Turtledove is well known for his alternate history novels but Judith Tarr, is his equal in every respect. On a world that never was but could have been, magic play a key role in the affairs of mankind with one woman¿s burning ambition capable of destroying an empire. DEVIL¿S BARGAIN is a masterpiece of intrigue, sorcery and romance.

Harriet Klausner