This exciting and interesting novel is the first installment of a planned trilogy following the life and fortunes of the great Salah ad-Din (Saladin) who became famous as a warrior and Sultan of Egypt and Syria. He is remembered for defeating Richard the Lionheart in battle, uniting the Arab world and recapturing Jerusalem.
This first part tells the story of the early life and career of Saladin as he learns to overcome his bullying older brother and control his asthma. The character of John, a Saxon captured in battle and forced to become a slave, is also a central figure as he and Saladin become good friends. This is the one part which isn’t based on historical fact, but it allows the reader to picture the Islamic world of the time through the eyes of a European and it works well to introduce customs and traditions which are obviously significantly different to today’s world.
The novel naturally includes lots of action and battles, and it introduces some of the key characters such as Reynaud de Chatillon and King Baldwin, whose story will presumably be continued in the next installment. The most telling question is whether I will want to read the next part, and the truth is I most certainly will. It is an interesting look at a fascinating historical figure, and time and place are conveyed powerfully throughout. The historical note at the end offers helpful clarification of the true facts, and I am very much looking forward to the next book. Recommended.