NOTICE: (Updated March 5, 2010)

Beginning December 19, 2009, Books 'N Border Collies will be posting but only intermittently while I pursue personal goals. I plan to share some reading I'm doing, but there will be no reviews. I will, however, be sharing my exploration of vegetarian cooking and the cookbooks and websites I use to educate myself. I hope you enjoy it!


Thursday, May 15, 2008


by Michael Alexander Eisner


This engrossing tale about one Spanish knight's experiences in the Crusades during the latter half of the 13th century is a first-rate historical novel, richly imagined and plainly written. After his brother Sergio drowns along with 500 other knights while sailing from Barcelona to the Holy Land, Francisco de Montcada dedicates himself to the Cross. Reported dead after the siege of the Crusader castle Krak des Chevaliers, Francisco returns to Spain mute and seemingly possessed, and is chained in the dungeon of a Cistercian monastery for his own protection. There, Cistercian monk Brother Lucas attempts to get him to speak of his experiences, and in the process earn the reward Francisco's father has offered for his son's recovery. Francisco's tale, when he begins to speak, involves the ghost of his brother, his warlike cousin Andres and Andres's intelligent sister Isabel, with whom Francisco is just beginning to fall in love when he goes off to train with the knights of Calatrava in preparation for their journey to the Holy Land. Artfully balancing Francisco's reminiscences with Brother Lucas's framing narration, Eisner smoothly turns the tables on the reader by slowly revealing that the real question of salvation does not concern the knight alone, but the monk as well. Brother Lucas, justifying his dreams of glory and renown with dogma and doctrine, must weigh his beliefs against the hypocrisy of everyone from promiscuous abbots to the evil Don Fernando, the bastard son of Spain's King Jaime, whose encounter with Francisco at Krak des Chevaliers is the centerpiece of the novel. Meticulously researched and artfully told, this is a historical novel that illuminates as it entertains, and proves Eisner to be a promising writer.

When I read the first chapter of The Crusader, I couldn't wait to get to the rest of the story. It was worth every moment of anticipation. There is a short period as Francisco begins to tell his story when I started wondering if the book was going to hold up to it's promise. It moves rather slowly for a little while. But trust me. Stick with it! Warning: Those with sensitive stomachs will have a hard time with the battle scenes and the cruel treament of prisoners by the vile Don Fernando. He is the first character I have run across since Sir William in The Pillars of the Earth that I loathed so much I would concoct heinous deaths for him in my head while I was reading.

While I thought Don Fernando's ultimate fate far too good for him, I did enjoy the way the author ended the book. While not the happy, happy end I hoped for, I did find something tranquil and soothing about it after all the blood and depravity. It does not appear at this time that Eisner has written any other books since this one (published in 2001), but I will be keeping my eyes open.



Eva said...

I'm not sure I can handle a Sir William-esque villain ever again. When I was about halfway through Pillars, I had to go to Wikipedia and found out the ending, because I absoutely refused to keep reading it if Sir William ended up on top. If I had known how bad he was going to be, I don't think I ever would have read it (of course, that would have been to my severe disadvantage, since the rest of the book is wonderful enough to outweight him). Ugh.

Lezlie said...

Hi, Eva!! I know exactly what you mean! Thankfully, The Crusader is a much, much shorter book, so you're not exposed to Don Fernando to the extent you were Sir William, but he is a horrible human being. And he does *not* win! :-)


Anonymous said...

"When I read the first chapter of The Crusader, I couldn't wait to get to the rest of the story."

Don't you just love when that happens? It's magical!

Lezlie said...

J. Kaye ~ Especially when it turns out to be as good as you thought it would! ;-)


BooksPlease said...

I do have a somewhat sensitive stomach,and reading something is as bad as watching a film, sometimes worse! I shall have to read parts of The Pillars of the Earth with my eyes half closed, shall I?

joanna said...

Hi Lezlie, this sounds like something I'd like - any idea on how sound the history part of it is? I love history and have this horrible tendency to trust the written word (I know!) so I always have to make sure that the historical novels i read are based on sound research!

Lezlie said...

Margaret ~ There are some pretty nasty scenes in PotE. Mostly, though, it was Sir William's evil nature that made me hate him so much. He was just so horrid!

Joanna ~ I don't know a lot about it, but the research seemed pretty trustworthy on the surface. It sure was believable!