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Alamut by Judith Tarr
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's review
Aug 18, 2010

really liked it
bookshelves: historical, fiction

I enjoyed this book quite a bit. It's an alternative history of the Christian Crusader Kingdom of Jerusalem during the reign of Baldwin IV and several years prior to Saladin's defeat of the Crusaders (between the Second and Third Crusades).[return][return]The tale follows Prince Aiden who arrives in Jerusalem to learn his nephew has been slain by an Assassin. He vows to find and kill the Assassin and his master, the Old Man of the Mountain. Along the way he travels to Damascus and Aleppo and learns more about Muslim culture and traditions and even manages to meet Saladin. He also meets the Assassin who, much to his surprise, is a woman. What adds a different twist to the tale is that both Aiden and Morgiana, the Assassin, are faerie folk or ifrits(as they are called in Islamic areas). They are immortal (or close to it) and are very attracted to each other.[return][return]Tarr does a wonderful job of capturing the essence of what living in that time must have been like. The determination of the Europeans to protect and preserve their holy places sits side by side with their arrogance and disdain for Muslims. The Muslims, in some respects, come off as more tolerant and open-minded. They tend to view Christians as misguided in their religion rather than as "heathens". The pervasiveness of Christianity into every aspect of their lives was also somewhat eye-opening. It's hard for someone like me to imagine the Church holding sway over every aspect of its followers lives. [return][return]I also didn't know that Baldwin IV was a leper. It made him a tragic and heroic figure. His skills and talents are presently so clearly as well as his isolation. His inevitable death at too early an age made me mourn his loss. This book was a great read and I'd recommend it to any fans of alternative history and fantasy.
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