One the hand, this is a reasonably exciting novel of political intrigue, religious devotion and forbidden romance set in the Holy Land in 1187. Rannulf Fitzwilliam is a Knight Templar who has sworn off women and devoted his life to the service of Christ, specifically saving the city of Jerusalem from the predations of the Saracens under Saladin. Landless but proud, Rannulf makes enemies easily, but also earns the devotion of the men who serve under him, earning the nickname Saint, which is applied both sarcastically and in admiration. His vow of chastity is sorely tested when he falls in love with the haughty Princess Sibylla and his determination to preserve Jerusalem in Christian hands is threatened by Saladin's repeated attacks, by treachery among the Christian defenders and by weak leadership, including that of his beloved Sibylla. All of this is handled quite well.
But on the other hand, the serendipitous interaction of this lowly warrior monk with the leading figures of the Crusades strains the bounds of credulity. Even more unbelievable is the gratuitous sodomite subplot, which finds one of Rannulf's men engaged in a torrid affair with Saladin's son. I'm not big on buggery anyway, but this relationship seems more than unlikely.
I'll give it a qualified recommendation, chiefly because of the strong characterization of Rannulf and Ms Holland's deftness at describing battles.
See also:Historical Fiction
-REVIEW: of THE PALACE OF WISDOM By Bob Marshall-Andrews (Cecelia Holland, NY Times Book Review)
-ESSAY: My Three Books (Joan Wolf, TW Bookmarks)
-ESSAY: Tony Miksak's Words on Books: What If?
-REVIEW: of Jerusalem (Lauren Belfer, NY Times Book Review)
-REVIEW: of Railroad Schemes By Cecelia Holland (Paula Friedman, NY Times Book Review)
-REVIEW: of HOME GROUND By Cecelia Holland (Jane Larkin Crain, NY Times Book Review)
-REVIEW: THE LORDS OF VAUMARTIN. By Cecelia Holland (EDNA STUMPF, NY Times Book Review)
-ESSAY: Re-Thinking the Crusades (Jonathan Riley-Smith, First Things)
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