Fourth Crusade

Written by Mark Butler
Review by Anna Belfrage

One of the larger blots on the history of Christianity is the debacle of the Fourth Crusade, which essentially ended in April 1204, when the eager Crusaders chose to concentrate their armoured might on sacking Constantinople rather than on reaching the Holy Land, there to reclaim Jerusalem. As a background for a novel, this period shows plenty of promise; conflict between religious intent and greed, the sheer horror of war, the political machinations behind the scenes – interesting stuff, to say the least. Add a young priest, Ruggerio, who is forced to come along and witness as Christians murder Christians, and we have all the ingredients for a great read. However, this is a novel that would have benefited greatly from a thorough and professional edit. While the plot is entertaining – even if the initial leaps back and forth in time are somewhat distracting – the repeated anachronisms, the frequent POV slips and the inaccurate descriptions of certain crucial events in the protagonist’s life detract from the overall reading experience. I was also confused as to how old Ruggerio was; as per the text, he is eighteen in 1202, twenty-six in 1204, but his age is compared with Pedro of Aragon’s, and if so he is sixteen in 1204…

Despite all this, I still had to read the book right to the end. The story has pace, it has action, it has despair and conflict – very gripping stuff. I guess that is an indication of just how good it could be, should the author invest some serious TLC!