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TV writer turned novelist Pasha offers this miniseries-ready recapitulation of the Third Crusade.

Saladin, a charismatic sultan of humble Kurdish origins, succeeds in the nearly impossible task of driving out the Christian Franks from Jerusalem, where they have ruled for decades after conquering the city with their trademark ferocious barbarity. Saladin manages to beat the Christians back to a small coastal encampment, where he keeps them contained. Back in England, young king Richard the Lionheart vows to retake Jerusalem for the Cross and for his own self-aggrandizement. Richard, a ruthless warrior still battling rumors that he is homosexual, is a virulent anti-Semite and shows no compunction about slaughtering women and children in the course of his campaigns. Maimonides, rabbi, physician and renowned author of religious and philosophical treatises, serves as Saladin’s doctor and most trusted confidant. Maimonides’ niece Miriam has been his ward ever since she narrowly escaped death at the hands of brutal Frankish marquis Conrad, who, years before, brutally raped and killed her mother before her eyes. Conrad is now the leader of the small group of Christians encamped on the coast—once Richard helps him retake Jerusalem, he expects to rule that city. Lovely, green-eyed and erudite, Miriam captivates Saladin, and the infatuation is mutual. After their affair is exposed, Miriam, on her way to sanctuary in Egypt, is captured by the Franks. Stung by Richard’s contempt, Conrad defects to Saladin. Maimonides is alarmed when he recognizes, in Conrad’s possession, an amulet which belonged to Rachel, Miriam’s mother. Realizing that Conrad murdered Rachel, Maimonides hatches a plot to kill the marquis and implicate Richard in his death. Meanwhile, Miriam unwillingly becomes Richard’s mistress in order to spy for the Saracens. Ultimately the love that both Richard and Saladin have for Miriam will force them into an unlikely decision about the fate of Jerusalem.

Although the pace is fast and frenetic, the characters are little more than polemic place-markers, and the language is jarringly clichéd and anachronistic.

Pub Date: June 22nd, 2010
ISBN: 978-1-4165-7995-3
Page count: 400pp
Publisher: Washington Square/Pocket
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1st, 2010