The Swords of Faith: A Novel of the Crusades
Richard Warren Field’s novel of the Third Crusade is a balanced, well-researched attempt to show both sides of the story. Wise but increasingly frustrated, Saladin sees his plans for a peaceful Muslim Palestine threatened from all sides including within his own camp, while an ambitious, arrogant Richard the Lionhearted is similarly frustrated by factionalism in the Christian ranks.
One of the best features of this novel is its sense of inevitability, carefully plotted and paced to make the reader feel propelled into the consequences of the meeting of the armies of both faiths. Into this conflict come two men: Pierre, a knight, and Raschid, a merchant. The relationship takes root in an unlikely seedbed, as Pierre was captured in a devastating battle, and Raschid trades two ugly pairs of shoes for him. As a master, Raschid is fair, and as a slave, Pierre is a hard worker and talented. When he and a suspiciously favored young slave woman in the master’s household fall in love, their freedom is Raschid’s wedding gift.
The two men’s bond is both tested and affirmed by the compromises they must make as each serves his respective God as well as earthly master. All look to the future: will there be peace and cooperation or constant threat from fanatics? What will persist of all they plan and build? The answer may be left in the hands of the next generation.