From 1097 to 1291 A.D., the first six and only major Crusades took place in a cyclical frenzy of religious and commercial zeal, chivalry and treachery, slaughter and salvation. ""Chance,"" says the author, ""especially the chance of unexpected death, played a great part in the history of the doctorless Middle Ages"". The brisk turnover in the Papacy, the dissensions of lesser clerics in the field, the distrust of Europe's crowned heads for one another's intentions, and the fiasco of the Children's Crusade ""which helped to give the Holy War a bad name among the indifferent,"" combined to frustrate every attempt to restore the Christian Holy Places to Christian control for more than short periods. ""As often happens, the wicked were too strong"" for the dedicated knights, ""But they did their best until they were beaten, and no man can do more"". And few writing history, whether from a fictional or factual basis, can do as well as Mr. Duggan.