A desert visionary with a dream for Israel spreads his idealism throughout medieval Europe.
French novelist Halter (Lilah, 2006, etc.) attempts to shed light on a real-life Jewish prince who may have been a false prophet. Opening in Venice in 1524, the novel introduces us to the inscrutable and charismatic David Reubeni, who claims to be a royal messenger for his brother Joseph, who reigns over the lost kingdom of Chabor. With aspirations far ahead of his time, Reubeni believes he can convince the Christian kingdoms of Europe to unite against Islam, fortify a Jewish army to take back Judea and help him achieve his long-held dream of establishing a Jewish homeland. In return, the prince promises that the pontiff will retain control of the holy places of Jerusalem, as well as the tomb of Jesus. Although absorbing the complex political landscape and religious details presented here can be daunting, Halter demonstrates a marvelous command of his subject, and he successfully fictionalizes Reubeni’s life and portrays the richness of the 16th century. The prince’s plan takes him from Venice, where he enlists the protection of an artist named Moses de Castellazzo, to Rome, where he strikes a deal with Pope Clement VII, and further into the continent to convince other rulers of the day. Halter injects the story with rousing sequences that pit Reubeni against bandit attacks, the Black Plague, palace intrigue and a menacing conspiracy headed by Dom Miguel da Silva, the Portuguese ambassador to Rome. Along the way, Reubeni finds a kindred spirit in the artist Michelangelo and takes counsel from Nicolo Machiavelli. Even his undoing becomes the stuff of legend in Halter’s capable hands.
A unique adventure novel.