Crossed: A Tale of the Fourth Crusade

Crossed: A Tale of the Fourth Crusade

by Nicole Galland


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780060841805
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 02/05/2008
Pages: 672
Product dimensions: 5.30(w) x 7.90(h) x 1.20(d)

About the Author

Nicole Galland's five previous novels are The Fool's Tale; Revenge of the Rose; Crossed; I, Iago, and Godiva. She writes a cheeky etiquette column for the Martha's Vineyard Times. She is married to actor Billy Meleady and owns Leuco, a dog of splendid qualities.

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A Tale of the Fourth Crusade

Chapter One

From San Nicolo, that sweltering sandbar of an island off the coast of Venice, rose a strange tent city milling with ten thousand unwashed soldiers and their unwashed squires, whores, cooks, priests, horses, heralds, armorers, and smiths. They called themselves pilgrims, having taken the cross, having sworn to carry out the pope's wishes. This meant they were going to an unknown desert, to wrest an unknown city from its unknown inhabitants.

Their transports and warships, waiting in the lagoon—heavy, strong, capacious, lethal—had been built by the Venetians, would be sailed by the Venetians, and at this moment were being stocked with food and water by the Venetians. In two days, the army and its fleet would finally—finally—set sail, after a season of political and financial delays, to do great good for Christendom.

But before they decamped, this would be the site of a gruesome murder-suicide, of such ferocity men would speak of it in fearful whispers, crossing themselves, for years to come.

At least, that was my plan.

As with so many things in this life, I was mistaken.

I leapt from Barzizza's boat when the water was ankle-deep, trudging angrily through the oily green until I had splashed myself to dry land and the edge of the army camp. Venice was mostly paving stone and water; this was the first time in a month I'd been on living soil. Earth felt comforting under my bare wet feet, but I didn't want comfort—I wanted death, and was panicked at the thought of being cheated of it. I'd learned half a dozen languages, taughtmyself to play music I did not like, and eaten food I could barely stomach, grown my beard and my hair, and woken up every day forcing myself to go on, for three years, to prepare for my exquisite, redemptive death—a death I now feared I'd been robbed of.

I had no weapon, just a spit of iron small enough to fold my hand around: a spike with a hook on one end, stolen from Barzizza's house, some sort of fishing spear. I don't remember how I learned which pavilion was the high commander's or what trick I used to distract the guards at the door, but the trick was fast accomplished; I was still seething as I scrambled inside, I could still hear my heartbeat pulsing in my temples as my eyes adjusted to the darkness.

There were only two men in this cool, open space: the army commander himself and a large young knight kneeling to his right, presumably his bodyguard. Both wore tunics decorated with broad gold braids. They were whispering together. Neither was the man I wanted.

"Where are the English?" I shouted.

The two men started, stared at me; the knight lumbered to his feet, grabbing for the dagger in his belt, as the leader responded, in a droll voice, "They are in England, I imagine."

So it was true, what Barzizza had told me; this final trek had been for nothing. A howl of humiliated rage escaped me. Across my mind flashed the journey back to Britain. I would never survive that. My one chance for revenge had been illusory; my intended victim had never even been in reach. With the warped logic of despair and rage, I decided then that I would still forfeit the one life that was yet mine to take: my own.

Both of the men staring at me now were armed. This would be simple, then: I had only to hurl myself upon the leader, and the bodyguard would kill me instantly.

When you know this one is your final heartbeat, time slows for a final savoring of the senses. In less than a blink I noticed more about my surroundings than I had in years: the feel of the woven-grass mats under my feet; the elaborate, bright decorations on the tent walls; the smell of rose water and woolly must that pervaded the pavilion; the commander's aristocratic handsomeness; the likable face of the young man who was about to skewer me. He had both sword and dagger in his belt; I wondered which he would use.

I also noticed, in that flicker, that I was interrupting something significant. Although the knight had been kneeling, there was an informality between them, as if they were kin. The lord looked oddly relieved by my interruption—until I raised the spike above my head and threw myself at him.

The young man was quick for one so large, but he was nowhere near as quick as I was, and I realized that I could accidentally kill the lord. The lord cringed, but he did not move to protect himself, trusting his knight. I myself did not trust his knight, and as my hands descended, I shirked, pulled back a hair, so that the hooked point of the spike just missed the lord's skull and only my knuckles glanced off his bald brow; by then the knight had me, huge left paw grabbing me around the throat, huge right one shoving the dagger point against my liver. So this was it: I was over now, finally and despite everything. Suddenly I was flooded with euphoria, and involuntarily, I grinned at him—my executioner, my liberator. His hair and beard gave his face a golden glow. I literally loved him more than my own life.

Our eyes locked; all my weight rested in his clenched left fist around my throat, the knife at my gut, as I waited for him to plunge it in.

He didn't.

He yanked the blade away and shoved me hard to the matted ground, where I choked on a mouthful of straw.

Something had gone horribly wrong: I wasn't dead.

The knight said something in a garbled language to the lord, who answered similarly. There was a brief debate, which to this day I cannot remember understanding. Listening in stunned outrage, I gradually recognized it as a Lombard dialect I was familiar with; at that point they could have been speaking in my native tongue and it would have sounded like so much nonsense. I was removed from my own skin, too dazed to understand what was happening.

A Tale of the Fourth Crusade
. Copyright © by Nicole Galland. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

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Crossed: A Tale of the Fourth Crusade 3.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 7 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I found this novel quite enjoyable, with a fast moving, exciting plot and sparkling characters. Galland is a notch above most historical fiction writers, who spend time with the same hackneyed plots and unbelievable endings. Galland brings an intelligence to historical fiction, and lots of bawdy humor as well. The story of the 4th crusade is far more entertaining than I remembered--full of plotting, intrigues, deception and greed. It defiantly shows that Galland re-traced the whole route, as this makes the scenes come alive. I usually don't read fiction, but liked that I could learn so much about a historical event while enjoying myself. I found this book a lively read, and would recommend it.
harstan More than 1 year ago
The nomadic musician left Britain to tour the continent, but when he reaches Venice he decides to join the Fourth Crusade. There he meets resolute believer Germanic knight Gregor of Mainz, the intrepid warrior¿s father-in-law the leader of the crusade Marquis Boniface of Montferrat, and in disguise as an Arab Princess Jewish healer Jamila of Alexandria, whom the wanderer rescues. However, a lack of capital slows down the crusaders from achieving their goal to retake Jerusalem. To keep their quest alive, they first sack the Christian city of Zara and surround Constantinople. As the musician, Jamila and Gregor try to perform good deeds the crusaders have other desires enflamed by Boniface, who plans to use his expendable force to gain increased power and wealth. --- CROSSED is entertaining historical thriller that looks deep at the way leaders manipulate their supporters for avaricious reasons. The musician without a name and Jamila are developed enough to bring the thirteenth century to life. On the other hand Boniface seems so one dimensional and a cruel nasty sort, one must wonder how he lined up support. Gregor steals the show as he changes from idealistic zealot to disillusioned realist. --- Harriet Klausner
littlebookworm on LibraryThing 29 days ago
One day in the year 1202, a British man breaks into the tent of a marquis, believing that he can both kill his enemy and be killed himself, achieving his ultimate goals in this life. Fortunately, the Briton is unwillingly rescued from suicide by a pious knight, Gregor of Mainz, something of a religious and martial icon at the start of the Fourth Crusade. Before they set sail, the Briton manages to rescue an Arab princess, who shares space on the journey with Gregor, his brother Otto, Otto¿s concubine, and two dimwitted servants. Together, this peculiar crew embark on one of history¿s most disastrous mistakes with thousands of other knights, clerics, and leaders.It probably isn¿t normal for most readers of this book to know all about the catastrophic Fourth Crusade. Catastrophic in hindsight, that is; this one was remarkably successful in terms of victories but horrid in terms of killing other Christians and not even coming close to achieving its goal of retaking Jerusalem. For the record, all the crusades were wrong and are actually appalling to think about, but this one is even so in medieval terms, which is quite impressive. So on approaching Crossed, I generally had down the politics, the outline of events, and the crazy people who were at the head of this insanity. If I hadn¿t, I think the politics would have irritated me, but the history is great. No one can make this stuff up. It¿s just too unreal for words, but it happened, and at a comfortable 800 year distance, we can even find it horrific in an amusing way.Such is what Galland accomplishes with Crossed. She doesn¿t really go for a medieval mindset with these characters. The closest is probably Gregor, who adheres to medieval standards very rigidly, but the rest of the characters are often used to play with the absurdities of medieval life rather than being approximations of the people who might have lived 800 years ago. I got used to this idea in Galland¿s first book and it hasn¿t really bothered me since now that I know what she¿s doing. The Briton is mainly the character that she uses for this purpose, employing hindsight to fuel his clever retorts and lamentations on fate, such as in response to the glory of battle,¿Is Christ smiling down at you for this? Do you become more Christian if you smear yourself in Christian gore?¿ (302)At all times, we¿re fully aware that this crusade is horrible and what the knights are being told to do is completely wrong. It¿s terrible, but it¿s also showing us the absurdity of the entire idea by poking at its ridiculousness.Not all of the book is great, though. Parts do drag. The history is fascinating, but the politics less so, and after a point the relationship between the Briton and Jamila has more or less been exhausted. The book is lengthy because it manages to cover almost the entire crusade, but it also covers a great deal more. I enjoyed it, but I¿m not sure how much of that was remembering my favorite old history professor teaching in my head as opposed to how much I was genuinely enjoying the book. I think this is certainly worth a try for historical fiction readers and history buffs, taken with a grain of salt. It¿s perhaps not Galland¿s best book but I¿ll still be eagerly awaiting her fourth novel.
rohwyn on LibraryThing 29 days ago
This book is one of the best researched novels I have ever read, but that was not enough to make me enjoy the story. The characters (and their motivations) all felt a bit too modern when cast against the period setting of the novel. Still, I learned a lot of background information, and I found the quotes at the beginning of every chapter both clever and appropriate.
DevourerOfBooks on LibraryThing 29 days ago
It is quite clear that Galland had done her homework and that she knew events and customs inside and out while writing the book. Still, I would almost hesitate to call the book historical fiction. It almost seems to be more modern fiction set against an historical backdrop. The Briton, in particular, has extremely modern sensibilities and voice. Having recently read Sharon Kay Penman¿s ¿Devil¿s Brood,¿ set in England in roughly the same period, the difference in period feel is striking. That being said, I still felt as if I learned much about this absurd `crusade¿ of which I was quite ignorant. Although the book dragged a bit in the middle, I thought this was a very good read overall, just don¿t go into it expecting period feel, or you will be disappointed.
jaimjane on LibraryThing 5 months ago
A very interesting tale of life about the Fourth Crusade, the one that never made it to the Holy Land. Characters changed and developed in a believable way as dissolusionment set in. Recommended.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago