This novel is the second book by the author about the Crusades. The book starts with Miriam, a young adolescent who has just run from a band of Crusaders that had attacked her family in the desert. She watched in horror as her parents are murdered and her mother is violated. She is also violated and would suffer the same fate as her parents had she not cut her attacker with his own dagger and run. She survives but is deeply scarred. Picked up by a kind Bedoin, Miriam is given to her kind aunt and uncle, the latter being a rabbi, doctor, and close advisor to the current Sultan.
Fast forward a few years and Jerusalem is retaken by the Mideastern lot, the Muslims and Jews having joined forces. The kind rabbi brings his beautiful niece to Jerusalem with her aunt in order to protect her. She becomes a person of interest for the Sultan.
The historical portion of this novel is well over 50%. It is not so much a love story as a war story. The author wanted to write a screen play about the crusades so others would have a greater understanding of it. The idea came to him shortly after the attacks on 9/11. Being Muslim, he was disheartened by the extremists who were not following the teachings of Mohammad. He also saw the parallel between Al-Qaeda and the crusaders; extremists who do not represent the true teachings of Mohammad nor Christ.
I did not know the author was Muslim by reading this book. History of the two protagonists, King Richard the Lionheart and Saladin, the Sultan, paints the former as a young, brash, and somewhat power-hungry king who turned to perpetuating the crusades as a way to show his worth as king. The latter protagonist is known throughout history as a patient, merciful, and accepting man who showed chivalry, honor, and principle.
The author also introduces a somewhat fictional character into the story named William. William sees the stupidity of pride ruling war and needlessness of murdering, pillaging, and raping the villagers on the way. He also does not agree with Richard to continue the crusades however, as a life long friend, he supports him, nonetheless. This friendship is severely strained as Richard commands 9/10 of the occupants of one settlement to be executed in a show of power, including men, women, and children. Tens of thousands were led to a pit and beheaded. Yes, this book is not for the faint of heart.
William is a piece of the author, who does not believe any religion or race should become so extreme as to not see that all human kind are the same. We are brothers and sisters. In one touching conversation, Richard asks William (who has had contact with enemy) of the the enemy, "Are they like us?" William pauses, looks away and responds, "They are us."
4 1/2 stars
* Just in case the FTC were to ask, I was provided a copy of this book by PUYB (Julie) for an honest review.