House of War

Written by Judith Tarr
Review by Ilysa Magnus

This is the second installment in Tarr’s historical fantasy series set in Jerusalem with Richard the Lionheart and his half-sister, Sioned, the focal characters. At the dawn of the 13th century, Richard, the King of Jerusalem, has grown in wisdom and power after destroying the Old Man of the Mountain, Sinan, with the help of his sister, Sioned who, with her Welsh Sight and the demonic powers of the Devil’s Brood of Anjou, can control an army of jinn. As it becomes apparent that Sinan, the Undead, has returned in full force, strengthening with the death of each of his victims, Richard, Sioned and her sorcerer husband, Ahmad, confront the terrible truth that Sinan wants Jerusalem — and then the rest of the world – for himself.

But the only way that Sinan can finally be defeated is if the Ark of the Covenant is returned from its hiding place, somewhere in the world, to the Temple in Jerusalem. And the only way that the Ark can be returned is if its historical protectors, the Jews, assist in the return. It is interesting to watch Tarr as she maneuvers the Jewish, Christians and Muslims into cooperating to save Jerusalem, fighting against their age-old grievances and prejudices to join together for the greater good.

I am typically not a big fan of alternative history. However, Tarr is such a talented writer and the characters and plot are so carefully constructed that I was sucked in immediately and played like a fiddle. This is a wonderful, enjoyable read. You just have to suspend your disbelief and let Tarr carry you along.