Shadow of the Swords

Written by Kamran Pasha
Review by Eva Ulett

Kamran Pasha brings the Third Crusade and the great personages of Richard the Lionheart and Salah al-Din ibn Ayyub (Saladin) on an intimate level with the reader in Shadow of the Swords. Richard’s relations with his father, King Henry, the machinations of royal siblings and courtiers, and the Lionheart’s standing in his kingdom provide motivations for the pursuit of a holy war. One of Richard’s trusted knights, Sir William Chinon, unique in possessing a Christian conscience, explains that for the king of England the crusade is less about God and more “about a civilization that was once the center of the world and is now reduced to a humiliated and impoverished backwater.” Saladin, meanwhile, has just regained the city of Jerusalem, sacred to Muslims, Jews, and Christians, from the last invading horde of barbarians. In middle age he must prepare to defend the holy city and the rest of Palestine against King Richard’s forces.

The Muslim leader Saladin is clearly the man with greater claim to be called noble and civilized. Richard’s brutality is unequaled. Connecting the two leaders, Kamran Pasha has cleverly portrayed the historical rabbi Maimonides, personal physician and advisor to Saladin, as well as his original creation, the rabbi’s niece Miriam. The Jewish doctor and Miriam, a young woman who has suffered the violence of the religious conflict in her homeland, are called upon to save Richard the Lionheart when he falls ill. Miriam becomes involved with both leaders in the turmoil and events of this latest crusade. Shadow of the Swords is an epic tale of the clash of nations, faiths, love, and loyalty. The novel illuminates the history of the relations of Jews, Muslims, and Christians and contains interesting end material discussing this and its repercussions on today’s society.