In this sequel to Lionheart, Ben Kane again shows that he knows his new era inside out and can tell a wonderful story. This fast-paced, impeccably researched book is a joy to read – and even better for an author’s note that reveals much of it truly happened! The story opens in 1189, with King Richard newly crowned. Ferdia (known as Rufus) is now established as one of the King’s close companions, and all are eagerly awaiting the promised Crusade to free Jerusalem. But first, both Richard and Rufus have unfinished business to sort out. Eventually, their epic journey across Europe and the Holy Land begins, lengthened by disputes with Philippe of France, the odd local conflict, and the need to meet Joanna and Berengaria, Richard’s sister and wife. Rufus and Joanna’s liaison would be fatal if the King discovered it. Finally, they arrive in the Holy Land, and the work they came for can begin.
The battle for Acre is stirringly described, as are the encounters with Saladin’s forces elsewhere. If battle scenes are your thing, they are here aplenty, with mamluk arrows darkening the sky, and crusader crossbows inflicting terrible damage. But for me, the most interesting parts of the book are the insights you get into both Muslim and Christian politics of the time, and into Richard’s character and decisions.
If you’re a fan of Ben Kane’s Roman work, and/or of the Plantagenets themselves, you will love this book; the history is just as solid, the storyline and characters as engaging, the action as fast-moving as Lionheart. I hope he’s busy with the third!