"The year 1169 dawned upon a quiet East. Along this frontier of Christianity, nothing unusual was taking place. Nothing ominous, that is. And in that part of the East known as the Holy Land, the crusaders went about their affairs without misgivings."
So opens Harold Lamb's magnificent history. However, out of the chaos of Muslim tribal warfare and regional animosity arose a military genius such as Islam had never known: Saladin. Uniting the sultanates of Cairo and Damascus, Saladin created a single powerful state. Luring the crusaders into an ill-considered confrontation, he destroyed their army at the Battle of Hattin in 1187, leaving the few remaining crusaders clinging perilously to a series of towns and forts along the Levantine coast. Into this desperate situation stepped the most formidable warrior of the age, Richard the Lion-Hearted. Hear the incredible tales of valor and futility as King Richard attempts to retake Jerusalem. And after him, many other kings would come forward....
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History delivered like a Tolkein novel
I had to concentrate with this book - not a complaint! I feel much more informed. It does what it says on the tin.. Took a while to realise the odd writing style and language was because the book was written in the 1930s. The style is reminiscent of the epic style of Tolkein, and contains imaginative scene setting sections that are almost poetic amongst the historic facts.
Once I decided to go with the quirks they were charming.
Great declaiming performance fitted the book style well
Good grief no! Your head would explode.
I haven't even finished it yet, but I thoroughly recommend it. It really is a thrilling journey through Saladin's capture of Jerusalem and the Third Crusade.
I had never really understood just how fearsome Richard the Lionheart was, but the book is packed with Muslim accounts of the Crusaders and the king in action, and Frankly (pun intended), it is one of the most awe-inspiring and thrilling reads I've had the pleasure of enjoying.
The account of the Battle of Jaffa is particularly excellent, with the description of how Richard and 15 mounted men carved through the hordes of Muslim cavalry, with Richard himself being a figure of such martial terror to the Muslims that, despite outnumbering him and his retinue by several orders of magnitude, they were too afraid of him to dare approach, sitting still in their saddles as Saladin repeatedly ordered them to engage.
Lamb's writing is first-class, like all his work, and he gives a full and fair account from both sides - Saladin and his brother are both brilliantly represented and it is easy to sympathise with Saladin and respect his iron will. I've yet to encounter a dull section or one that does not do justice to the events portrayed.
It is narrated by Charlton Griffin, and he has the perfect voice for the material, deep, commanding and measured.