Readable history for specialists and general audiences alike.



A British historian explores the lives of the women who ruled Christian-captured Jerusalem, circa 1100.

Though chroniclers of the First Crusade left a “rich trove” of narrative sources for modern historians, most of these writers were also misogynist male clerics who minimized the achievements of many powerful women. To balance the historical record, Pangonis, who specializes in the medieval world of the Mediterranean and Middle East, considers the roles and deeds of the unsung queens of Jerusalem who ruled between 1099 and 1187. Crowned in 1118, Morphia was “the first woman to preside as queen over the Kingdom of Jerusalem for any length of time.” Like the royal female consorts who preceded her, her power to rule came from her husband, Baldwin II. But the four daughters she bore him each became rulers at different times of the four states of Outremer, the lands crusaders wrested from the Muslims. Pangonis pays particular attention to Morphia’s first-born daughter, Melisende, whom Baldwin groomed to rule Jerusalem. Like princesses who stood to inherit kingdoms in Europe, though, she could not be named sole inheritor and was forced to marry according to the wishes of her father and his nobles. That did not stop her from later refusing to step down in favor of the son who forcibly deposed her. Her willfulness would be recalled in the sometimes-scandalous actions taken by her sisters, female cousins, and, later, her granddaughter, Sibylla, the last queen of Jerusalem. Married to a “suitable” match as a teenager and then quickly widowed, Sibylla rebelled against royal expectations and married the landless son of a French lord. A complex historical narrative that celebrates female agency and a tale of family intrigue spanning generations, this book sheds light on the silenced women of a fascinating medieval bloodline.

Readable history for specialists and general audiences alike.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-64313-924-1

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Pegasus

Review Posted Online: Oct. 26, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2021

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Required reading for anyone interested in global affairs.


The author of authoritative books on Mao and Pol Pot returns with another impressive yet disturbing account of a dangerous world leader.

Events in Ukraine will spur sales of this thick biography, but any praise is well deserved, as Short offers an insightful and often discouraging text on the Russian president. Born in 1952 in Leningrad, he grew up in a tiny, shabby apartment shared with two other families. Entering the KGB in 1975, he left in 1991 to join Leningrad’s city government in the exhilarating aftermath of Gorbachev’s perestroika. Diligent and efficient, Putin rose to prominence and moved to Moscow in 1996, becoming President Boris Yeltsin’s trusted assistant and then successor in 2000. Russia’s constitution (approved under Yeltsin) gives its president far more powers than America’s, but Short shows how Putin’s KGB background lowered his inhibitions on imprisoning or murdering political opponents; as time passed, his word became law. The author has no quarrel with the accusation that Putin destroyed the democratic liberties that followed glasnost, but he also points out that, for most Russians, the 1990s were a time of crushing poverty, crime, and disorder. Early on under Putin, living standards increased, and the streets became safer. Few Russians admire the Soviet Union, other than its status as an empire and great power. Many Russians, including Putin, are angry about how the U.S. boasted of victory during the Cold War, gave advice but little else during the lean years, and broke its promise not to expand NATO to former Soviet nations, thereby stoking Russia’s long-standing paranoia about being surrounded by enemies. Putin’s 2014 seizure of Crimea and backing of secessionists in eastern Ukraine remain popular, and many Russians support the invasion of Ukraine despite its difficulties. Having read obsessively and interviewed almost everyone, Putin included, Short delivers a consistently compelling account of Putin’s life so far. Contradictions abound, and the author is not shy about pointing out frank lies from sources that include Putin as well as his enemies.

Required reading for anyone interested in global affairs.

Pub Date: July 26, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-62779-366-7

Page Count: 848

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: May 18, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2022

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A solid work of investigation that, while treading well-covered ground, offers plenty of surprises.

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An account of the last gasps of the Trump administration, completing a trilogy begun with Fear (2018) and Rage (2020).

One of Woodward and fellow Washington Post reporter Costa’s most memorable revelations comes right away: Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, calling his counterpart in Beijing to assure him that even after Jan. 6 and what Milley saw as an unmistakable attempt at a coup d’état, he would keep Trump from picking a war with China. This depiction has earned much attention on the talking-heads news channels, but more significant is its follow-up: Milley did so because he was concerned that Trump “might still be looking for what Milley called a ‘Reichstag moment.’ ” Milley emerges as a stalwart protector of the Constitution who constantly courted Trump’s ire and yet somehow survived without being fired. No less concerned about Trump’s erratic behavior was Paul Ryan, the former Speaker of the House, who studied the psychiatric literature for a big takeaway: “Do not humiliate Trump in public. Humiliating a narcissist risked real danger, a frantic lashing out if he felt threatened or criticized.” Losing the 2020 election was one such humiliation, and Woodward and Costa closely track the trajectory of Trump’s reaction, from depression to howling rage to the stubborn belief that the election was rigged. There are a few other modest revelations in the book, including the fact that Trump loyalist William Barr warned him that the electorate didn’t like him. “They just think you’re a fucking asshole,” Barr told his boss. That was true enough, and the civil war that the authors recount among various offices in the White House and government reveals that Trump’s people were only ever tentatively his. All the same, the authors note, having drawn on scores of “deep background” interviews, Trump still has his base, still intends vengeance by way of a comeback, and still constitutes the peril of their title.

A solid work of investigation that, while treading well-covered ground, offers plenty of surprises.

Pub Date: Sept. 21, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-982182-91-5

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Sept. 24, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2021

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