Hollywood made him a blacksmith; Arab chronicles said he was "like a king." He served a leper, but defied Richard the Lionheart. He fought Saladin to a stand-still, yet retained his respect. Rather than dally with a princess, he married a dowager queen -- and founded a dynasty. He was a warrior and a diplomat both.
Knight of Jerusalem is Book I of a three-part biographical novel. In this book Balian, the landless son of a local baron, goes to Jerusalem to seek his fortune, but finds himself serving a leper boy instead. Only that boy is soon King of Jerusalem and facing the combined forces of Syria and Egypt as Saladin declares jihad against the Christian kingdom.
About the Author
For more about the crusader kingdoms, visit defenderofjerusalem.com or follow her blog: defendingcrusaderkingdoms.blogspot.com.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Most readers will agree that to create a biographical/historical tome that will entrance, excite and lure them in to the point where they literally do not want to stop reading until the six hundred or so pages are over, is a feat next to impossible. However, this is the second book in a series of three – the first being Knight of Jerusalem – that owns the power to do everything just stated above. The story is incredible. The locations are brought to life by this author with perfect clarity during a time in history that was more than confusing. This was a time where everyone seemed to work night and day to gain power – whether it was individuals with personal plans set in place, or entire religious sects that refused to step away. In this second novel, Jerusalem (the Christian kingdom of Jerusalem) is under massive siege. Salah ad-Din is the Kurdish leader who is so vibrant that he can basically sell any idea to anyone (think the old adage of selling ice to the Eskimos). He was able to bring together two units to form one, Shiite Egypt and Sunnite Syria. Now that these two powerful forces are one team, so to speak, they declare jihad against the Christians. King Baldwin IV is already dealing with a horrific issue: leprosy. The disease is attacking him, and has been since he was a boy. But now he must rise up in the face of this monumental battle coming straight at him and find a way to stop Salah ad-Din from coming in and taking over the kingdom. The one man who has already proven himself beyond a shadow of a doubt to King Baldwin is Balian. Balian d’Ibelin (for those who did not read the first in this amazing three-part series) was a man who had no land and no title. All he has this day is his background with the king. When the king was just a prince, Balian was placed in the kingdom by then monarch Amalric I, to take care of the boy with leprosy who was isolated from nearly everyone. Balian is still there beside him and has worked with the courage, strength, and bravery that outranks any knight or loyal follower. Balian is in this struggle for the long haul, and he is the one fence that this jihad will have to knock down in order to take out the people of Jerusalem, bury the king, and rip to shreds the basis of Christianity. Watching Balian grow with the Prince was beyond memorable in the first book. He was involved in the inner core of this kingdom and made friends with the right ones, as well as some of the wrong who were sent away. Now, in the year 1178, his mission in life is anything but complete. This is a book that is biographical, yes. But the real meat and bones of this story are the emotions. Everything from war to suspense; romance to kindness; good to absolute evil – and even the presence of the well-known and well-read Templar crusaders – everything is offered by this writer in order to bring Balian’s life, as well as the fight for Jerusalem, into full-blown Technicolor. (Note to Hollywood: This should be done on-screen in Technicolor, as well.) In addition, the author has included maps of the Holy Land during this period, genealogical family charts, as well as historical notes for readers to understand every crack and crevice of this kingdom and its legendary battles. Quill says: This is a do-not-miss series that you will keep on your shelves in order to read again and again, with each time awakening more emotion and bringing Balian’s valiant history to life.
"Knight of Jerusalem" by Helena P. Schrader is the first in a trilogy of three biographical novels about the crusader Balian d’Ibelin. It is a story brimming with adventure and court intrigue. Set in the Holy Land after the Christians have won it in the first crusade (12th c.), Schrader’s novel covers a period of history not often visited in fiction. Balian was portrayed by Orlando Bloom in the Ridley Scott directed Kingdom of Heaven, but Schrader thought the real story was far more fascinating—the third son of an affluent man in Jerusalem, Balian inherited nothing yet somehow managed to rise to prominence and marry into the royal family. And it is. Schrader’s novel opens as Balian’s much older brother, Hugh, dies after falling from his horse. Hugh has raised Balian, and with his last breaths he tells him to go to the court at Jerusalem to make himself, because the king owes him a favor. Once he arrives at court, Balian is offered a position as a riding tutor to the king’s son Baldwin, who has leprosy. The assignment may very well be a death sentence, but Balian cannot in good faith turn it down. Indeed, in Jerusalem, leprosy is considered a mark of holiness, a sign that one has been touched by God. Balian provides faithful service to his courageous pupil and prince, whom he admires for his heroic perseverance, but he still yearns for adventure and to make his own mark. However, Balian is ostracized due to his close contact with the leper prince; he is an outsider at court. The only woman who will approach him is Maria Zoe Comnena, Baldwin’s beautiful young stepmother. This is when Schrader brings a fresh new perspective to this period of history with an unvarnished view that she deftly weaves into the subtext of the novel—a woman’s perspective of the subjugation and fettering of females that permeated the medieval times. The author is a scholar of this era and has earned her PhD. in History from the University of Hamburg. Intrigue and politics of the court ensue when the king dies suddenly. Balian finds his role at court becoming more vital, as Prince Baldwin takes the throne. When he finally reaches his majority and can cast aside his regent, Baldwin rewards Balian with the position of Constable of Ascalon, a prestigious but dangerous appointment that will require diplomatic skill as well as military prowess. As Balian must keep Salah-ad-Din’s forces away from his holdings, the story picks up speed, focusing on military battles and the budding romance between Balian and Maria Zoe, a woman he believes too far above his station to marry. The battle scenes ring vividly of scimitars, clashes of sword upon sword, of armored horsemen and horses charging at each other, and the brutality of combat. Before this, much of the novel’s action is summarized instead of immediate, as Schrader deftly covers a long period of time to get Balian to his position of influence and power. Readers will be awarded for their patience though. Aficionados of historical fiction will be pleased with the details that Schrader brings to Knight of Jerusalem making it a jewel to add their favorite reads. Schrader is clearly knowledgeable about the time period and ably weaves a portrait of an oft-overlooked figure from history. Her time spent in the Middle East as a diplomat shows in her striking descriptions of places and structures, mores and customs. While she adheres ferociously to historical accuracy of the times, Schrader finds balance with the narrative to keep the reader entertained—no small feat. The author brings romance, chivalry, the fury of battles, and the turbulence of the time vividly to life as she lays the ground work for the next two volumes that we hope will indulge us more about the fascinating Balian and his exciting true adventures in this little known time of great upheaval where East meets West and the future of today’s world is shaped.
We are proud to announce that KNIGHT OF JERUSALEM by Helena P. Schrader is a B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree. This tells a reader that this book is well worth their time and money!