Knights of the Cross
In the author’s historical note at the back of the volume, he notes the “catalogue of greed, intrigue, treachery and extraordinary violence that attended the siege” of Antioch in the First Crusade. This summed up my reading experience very concisely. I had read and enjoyed the first book in this series, Mosaic of Shadows. I delighted in the twists and turns of the action taking place in and near Byzantium, and the interplay between the main characters. However, this volume seems so awash in blood and treachery that I wasn’t able to enjoy it as I did the first, though I realize that this is personal taste, and others might find the action fascinating.
Demetrios Askiates is attending the general Tatikios, who is representing the Byzantine emperor at the siege of Antioch. The Normans, Provençals, Franks and others, along with their princes, are all there as well, and they seem to have as little regard for Tatikios’s troops as they do for the infidel Turks holed up within the walls of the city. When a Norman knight is murdered, Demetrios is summoned by Lord Bohemond to investigate the murder. The situation becomes increasingly complex the more he discovers, though his investigations are hampered by the hatred the knight’s friends feel for him, and the increasingly dire situation in the attempt to take the city. When it is learned that Kerbogha is leading a massive army on the way to Antioch to battle the Crusaders, the tension level rises further yet. There is an incredible vividness to the descriptions and I really did feel I was there – uncomfortably so!