The Leper King (Book One of the Magdalen Cycle)
Young Baldwin, the valorous King of Jerusalem and Defender of the Holy Sepulcher in Scott Rezer’s novel The Leper King, has an additional distinction telegraphed by the book’s title: Baldwin IV was a leper, and Rezer’s book uses this grim reality (the book’s portrayal of the disease is as good as anything readers have seen since the original Thomas Covenant trilogy by Stephen Donaldson) as the starting point for his captivating narrative. The brave, afflicted young king must fight a path between his own warlike barons in the Holy Land and the menacing forces of outraged Islam, and Rezer gives him an unexpected ally in the person of a graceful young woman who claims to be a saint.
Basing his story on extensive research very skilfully deployed, Rezer brings the world of 12th century Jerusalem to life, and to that historical research he adds some intriguing elements of mysticism that feel very much of a piece with the fanatical strains of mysticism running through the era. Above it all there is the character of Baldwin himself, a winningly convincing fictional recreation of one of the most fascinating figures of the Middle Ages. Strongly recommended.