Unlike many medieval tales, this novel is not set within rolling hills in the forever green lands of England, but in the dust of Acre, the capital of crusader Jerusalem in the late 13th century. The novel focuses upon Baldwin, the young son of a knight arriving in Acre to defend it against the enemies of Christendom. Michael Jecks comes into his own as he builds a picture of Acre and of what the young Baldwin experiences upon his arrival. The descriptive writings of the land and its inhabitants are a joy to read.
The book delivers on more levels than just getting a feel for what Acre would have been like in the 13th century – after all, it is not designed to be a travel book. The tales I read as a child were simple affairs; you had your heroic type and the villain. Jecks shows the political environment to be chaotic at best, nothing as simple as crusader against Moslem. He delightfully shows us an allied force can be a very loose term; the reality can be very different whether that friction is between Christian Orders or Christian states. Some characters are factual and others are fictitious, but all have a depth and realism to their individual stories, whether they be Christian or Mamluk. With the characters being so believable, it makes the fusion of fiction and fact so easy to digest as a reader. The flow of the book is nice and steady, giving the reader chance to take in the plot; my only minor problem with the book is that its flow is so singular.