In the days that follow, the king charges Fitz Alan with a life-or-death mission - to recover the long-lost Holy Lance, a religious relic widely believed to be responsible for the near-miraculous success of the First Crusade.
The ensuing quest leads Fitz Alan and a hand-picked band of Templars on a journey deep into enemy territory, where they battle Saracens, Assassins, hostile Christians and even a traitor within their own ranks as they seek to return the Holy Lance to Christian hands and thereby ensure the liberation of Jerusalem and the success of the crusade.
About the Author
Andrew Latham was born in England, raised in Canada and currently lives in the United States. He graduated from York University in Toronto with a BA (Honors) in Political Science and later earned an MA from Queen’s University in Kingston and a PhD from his alma mater, York. Since 1997 Andrew has been a member of the Political Science Department at Macalester College in Saint Paul, Minnesota, where he where he lives with his wife Wendy, daughter Bernadette and son Michael.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
VERDICT: Presented within a suspense story, this historical novel is an excellent presentation of the milieu and mentality of the spirit of the Crusades. The book in set over a month, July-August 1191. The Crusaders just avoided a terrible defeat at Acre. King Richard of England (famously known as the Lionheart, though never under this surname in the book) has noticed the courage and success of the Templar Brother Fitz Alan. He is the main protagonist of the book, with his friend Arnaldus. Richard and Robert de Sablé, the Master of the Order of the Temple, charge him to go recover a supposed miraculous relic, the Holy Lance with which Christ was pierced on the Cross. In a country (roughly corresponding to modern Syria) at war between different Saracen (that’s how they used to be called) factions and different Christian groups from Europe, ripe with all kinds of jealousies, this is certainly not an easy task. Before dying, his old confessor actually warns Fitz Alan about the dangers of such a mission. You will have to read the book to see if he accepts and what happens to him. I would like to highlight the fantastic job the author did to recreate the historical milieu and mentality of the Crusades. If originally, the idea of the Crusades might have been fair and glorious, as we all know it did not take long to turn into disastrous expeditions. Actually, Saint Bernard, who preached the 2nd Crusade, was so shocked to see what happened in reality that he never really recovered from the effect of it. It certainly did not help his already nervous and sick stomach, and he died a few years after the official end of the 2nd Crusade. I mention Saint Bernard as he is alluded to a few times in the novel. Unfortunately, I am afraid most readers may not understand fully the connection, and this does not seem to be explained in the afterword either: Saint Bernard, full of idealism, had actually been very instrumental in the creation of the Order of the Knights Templars at the beginning of the 12th century, and even wrote them a book (In Praise of the New Knighthood) that complemented the Rule of saint Benedict they were following. The author captured very well the jealousy, envy, and conflicts between the different civil authorities (King Richard of England and King Philip of France; Conrad of Monterrat, the pretender to the throne of Jerusalem), with their respective vassals; and religious groups: Templars, Hospitallers, Cistercians. And of course religious and men in authorities did not like each other either. With all these groups together often more interested in their own glory than God’s, no wonder it did not turn out too well. There were also good points on what was going on on the other side, with Saladin an his brother Saphadin especially, and the groups of the Assassins. The story of the Holy Lance is presented with suspense, which gives a nice extra dimension to the historical novel. As any worthy book on the Crusades, there is violence, be warned, with awful scenes of carnage and torture. The Crusades remain for me a shameful page of history when killing and dying in the name of Christ was also a great honor. This inner conflict is also a large part of the story, with Fitz Alan struggling all along to become a better Templar. But whatever their motif for killing, killing was still the necessary means to their end.