Men of the Cross
A tale of the Third Crusade, which Richard the Lionheart conducted in 1190 – 1193 and ended in his capture by Duke Leopold of Austria. What sets this novel apart is that it is also a love story between two knights. Henry de Grey, a young un-blooded knight, meets Stephan L’Aigle of Yorkshire in an alehouse in Southampton as they await departure to join Richard on crusade. They quickly become friends and Henry is introduced to the King’s close circle, including Robin of Louviers. Picking up two vagabonds on the way, boys caught stealing but who chose to serve those who caught them, a close-knit group of five men and boys travel to the outskirts of Jerusalem and back through Europe, which proves as perilous as the distant land of Outremer.
Charlene Newcomb has woven a gripping tale, recounting the crusade without ever been boring or laden down with pages of political detail. The five main characters are compelling, believable and likeable. Ms Newcomb does not do gore, which is a blessing for someone who does not particularly enjoy reading about it, but that does not mean the battle scenes are not powerful or that the sense of weariness and heat are not present – they are. Admittedly the Battle of Arsuf could have been a more detailed, but as our heroes were on the periphery, it is forgivable.
The love story is handled sensitively, it just is. We do not necessarily leave them at the bedroom door, but there is no sense that Ms Newcomb is trying to shock or titillate.
The book is not without minor faults; missing prepositions for the most part and a single formatting error, but it reads well on an iPhone, including the maps that were scalable to highlight details.
A good read and a page-turner. Luckily there is a sequel, so the adventure will continue.