Monday, July 5, 2010

The Swords of Faith by Richard Warren Field

In the 12th century, under the leadership of Richard the Lionheart, knights marched into the Holy Land to reconquer it and wrench it from the grip of Saladin, its Kurdish Muslim Sultan. It was known as the Third Crusade, and although it was considered a failure, it was the catalyst which fired the need for a Fourth Crusade years later.

Two larger than life men are at the heart of this sweeping epic. One is Saladin, the charismatic and chivalrous Saladin who staunchly conducts himself with honour even though his followers did not always obey his orders. He is driven to defeat and oust the foreign Christians forever from his lands. His rival is Richard the Lionheart, the pious and gallant English prince and king, who aims to re-conquer Jerusalem, the city the Christians lost to Saladin years before. Both men believe themselves called by God to lead their armies to victory against each other.

Several endearing secondary characters pepper this intriguing story. Pierre of Botron, a captured knight is traded as a slave to Rashid, a wealthy merchant, for the cost of a ruined pair of shoes. Rashid of Yenbo, a man with a dark secret who is driven by greed and power, but who is also a loving son, father-figure, and trustworthy friend.

Meticulously researched, the story recounts, in accurate detail, the history of this momentous event in history, from start to its finish. Author Richard Warren Field penned this incredibly story with such a vibrant simplicity that not only engrosses the reader in the plot, but that endears them to its colourful and intriguing characters.

Field’s passion for this period in history is clearly evident on every page. He relays historical facts and details through action and dialogue instead of narrative. In this way, he makes the story literally spring off each page. But the most striking quality of this novel is Field’s ability to build three-dimensional, larger-than-life characters. He is able to show the reader all aspects of their personalities, good, bad, and ambivalent, by taking us into their thought innermost thoughts so that we understand what drives each character.

The novel is long, but one that is easy to read and escape into. I could not help but fall into the story, eager to turn the page to learn a character’s secret or discover the next plot twist. For anyone who wants to learn about the Crusades, this is the novel to start with, the first of a trilogy. Field is already well into completing the sequel. Look for Swords of Faith later in 2010!

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