The Saracen: A Tale of Medival Spain

Written by Lynna Banning
Review by Xina Marie Uhl

The Reconquista in 12th-century Spain comes alive in this tale of conflict and love between Christians and Saracens, also called Moors. Young Christian novice Malenda runs afoul of a Christian sect called the Cathars when she dares to save a newborn child. Luckily for her, dashing Saracen horseman Barik gallops to her rescue, and spirits her back to her abbey. Cultured and chivalrous, Barik demonstrates that Malenda made an impression on him when he delivers a beautiful horse to her as a gift, one which proves very useful when her abbey catches on fire and she has to flee for her life. Now homeless, Malenda ends up staying at Barik’s embattled estate in Aragon.

At Barik’s estate Malenda transcribes Arabic texts while Barik rides about being gallant and gorgeous. The clash of Christian and Moorish cultures is highlighted, as is the endemic warfare between them. Alas, the Christians tend to come off as ignorant and crude while the Moors seem ever-cultured and gracious, when the reality was undoubtedly more nuanced.

The romance between Malenda and Barik proceeds at a quiet pace. The question of whether or not this couple can overcome their considerable differences keeps the reader guessing until the end. The reader can expect a lovingly crafted tale throughout.