In Schrader’s (The Last Crusader Kingdom, 2017, etc.) historical novel, the Ibelin family fights to protect their honor and their position against a tyrannical Holy Emperor in 13th-century Cyprus and the Middle East.
The handsome, recently knighted Sir Balian II of the House of Ibelin can’t please his father, John d’Ibelin, Lord of Beirut, who considers his eldest son and heir to be impulsive and decadent; moreover, his reputation as a lady’s man seems inescapable. His uncle, Philip, is baillie of Cyprus on behalf of the 7-year-old King Henry I, and he strives to keep the peace in the land. When Amaury Barlais, a bitter knight, nearly kills someone after accusing him of cheating in a joust, he becomes the Ibelin family’s enemy for life. In Sicily, Frederick II Hohenstaufen, the Holy Roman Emperor, weds the young Yolanda, queen of Jerusalem, for a political alliance, but when he doesn’t keep his word regarding royal succession, it sets off a terrible chain of events. The emperor also wants to win back the Holy Land from the Saracens, and he calls on his subjects to help him. This sprawling work is full of excitement, with plenty of jousts, sieges, and daring escapes. The story features a huge cast of characters, and it takes readers on adventures through Cyprus, Acre, Jaffa, and other locales; however, there are maps, family trees, and character descriptions at the beginning that will help wayward readers. The well-meaning but flawed Sir Balian is a great central figure—a bit like William Shakespeare’s portrayal of the young Prince Hal, without being too clever for his (and his people’s) own good. The leading female characters, meanwhile, aren’t blushing maidens waiting to be rescued but rather forceful actors in their own rights.
An exciting royal adventure with a large cast.