Balian d'Ibelin and the Kingdom of Jerusalem

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The Crusader by Alexander Eisner

This is a melancholy, not to say morbid book. While extremely well written and well researched with excellent characters, I found myself just wanting to get it over with. The construction of the novel, a monk recording a "confession," has many intriguing advantages, but knowing from the start that the hero returned from the crusade a wreck suffering from "demons" made me dread reading the next chapter. I knew there was bound to be even worse to come. In retrospect, I also found the villain too evil.

That said, this is certainly a good book, even a profound book. This book does make you think, and the narrators are excellently drawn. This book even has a spark of genius in it. It is more than just a story, more than adventure or romance or mystery. It was definitely a Spanish book; I could see, hear and smell Spain in the pages, and readers who have an affinity to Spanish culture may like it better than I.

Yet it was too unremittingly depressing to satisfy me as a reader. Maybe I've just been lucky, but my experience of life is of shadow -- and light, of ugliness and beauty, and of good as well as evil. The light, the beauty and the good gets too little space in this book.