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by Robyn Young
Dutton, August 2007
512 pages
ISBN: 0525950168

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Although there has always been a fascination with the legends surrounding knighthood and the secrets associated with the Templars group, this interest has seemed to reach fever pitch following the success of THE DA VINCI CODE. Like that book, Robyn Youngís CRUSADE is a mixture of fact and fiction, this time following the adventures of one particular knight, Will Campbell, who is part of a secret group within the Holy Landís Temple called the Brethren.

As the book CRUSADE opens in 1274, the peace that has reigned among the Christians and Muslims has held for nearly 30 years. Like contemporary times, however, this is a tenuous peace built through the relations of a few individuals. As the story opens, struggling merchants who make their riches off the destruction of war are cooking up a plot to dissolve that peace with a plan that will so enrage the Muslim community that war becomes the inevitable response.

While it is easy for readers to concentrate solely on the historical milieu of the medieval setting of this story, the reverberations of contemporary politics are striking. Who benefits from war? Who heeds the call to holy war? Is it possible for people of various religious persuasions to live together peacefully? Who seeks power, and how will they use it (for good or evil)?

Within this context, a few brave individuals work in private to prevent the plotís success, most notably the ruling Sultan Baybarsís chief amir Kalawun, and the Scottish knight Will Campbell, However, in addition to the plot cooked up by the merchants, the sultanís own son has designs on power and the eradication of the Franks (aka Christians) from the Holy Land.

The book is rich in characters, plots, and subplots; in fact, one could argue that the story is downright complicated. Not only is there an accompanying glossary to sort out the terms used within the book, there is also an extensive character list to help aid the reader. Moreover, this character list includes a starred identifying system to let the reader know just which characters are indeed real historical figures.

Although this level of complexity and the length of the book (topping out near 500 pages) may put off some readers, it is easy enough to follow the story without having to make constant reference to these sources. The author does a competent job of keeping the main characters front and center, and the central storyline is easy to follow. Itís easy to identify where the book makes reference to the earlier volume in the series, and itís clear from the ending that there will be more to come of this tale, but the book itself is largely contained, and these elements donít detract from the storytelling itself.

For those who are particularly interested in this historical time frame, CRUSADE is sure to pique their interest; for the more general reader, it may require a bit more slogging through the first part of the story to get truly involved in the bookís characters and action. Sticking with the story, however, will have its rewards, even for those with a lesser interest. Young has developed a strong following from her first book, BRETHREN, and this addition seems likely to continue to draw readers to her Templar trilogy.

Reviewed by Christine Zibas, December 2007

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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